6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
prolongation during War TIME
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether the Administration will take into immediate consideration the submission of a Bill to Parliament to provide for an alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution on the following lines: - That, when the Empire is engaged in a war in which the Commonwealth of Australia is an active participant, and in such case only, the Commonwealth Parliament may, by a resolution carried by a majority of the members voting in the House of Representatives and the Senate, extend the life of Parliament for not more than one year at a time, and make arrangements necessary for the filling of vacancies and the avoidance of byelections, and that, if passed, the Bill embodying such proposals be submitted, as constitutionally provided, to a referendum at the forthcoming general elections?
– I promise the honorable senator that I will bring the matter under the immediate attention of the Government. I can only express regret that it was not brought forward a little earlier.
– Quite so. You may find that it may be necessary yet.
The following papers were presented : - Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911t 1915. - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1917,
Defence Act 1903-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 48, 51.
Patents and Trade Marks.- Statement showing appeals against decisions of Commissioner.
Public Service Act 1902-1916. - Promotion of P. 0. Elliott, Department of Trade and Customs.
Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914. - Second General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 41, 42, 44, 50, 52, and 53.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to the case, reported in to-day’s Argus, of a young architect charged with evading drill, the defence being that he was not a British subject? Is it not possible to get a young Australian capable of doing the work which Bardolph is doing - one who would not evade the compulsory military service of Australia?
– If the honorable senator will oblige me with the paragraph, in question, I will refer it to the Minister whose Department is involved, and obtain the information for him by tomorrow.
– Have the Government yet decided what action they intend to take in the matter of Mr. Gilchrist and the report which was submitted by Judge Eagleson ?
– In view of the legal opinion expressed in this matter, it is not proposed to proceed further with it.
– PRICE OF SUGAR.
– Is the statement of the arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the grocers of Australia with reference to the sale of sugar to the public which appeared in the Age yesterday, correct, and, if not, will the Leader of the Senate lay a copy of the agreement on the table?
– I would have very considerable hesitancy in affirming the accuracy of a statement in any newspaper. I therefore ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question.
Privilege - Proposed Royal Commission
– Has the Leader of the Government in this Chamber seen a statement in the press that a writ has been issued against a member of the Senate over something which was said by him here? Is it the intention of the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the charges made here by Senator
Watson, and the suspicious circumstances concerning the resignation of Senator Ready and the appointment of Mr. Earle?
– I have seen the statement that a “writ has been issued by the Prime Minister, Mr. W. M. Hughes, against Senator Watson. The matter now being in the arena of the Law Courts, I desire to say nothing more on that point. With regard to the resignation of Senator Ready, the Prime Minister desires me to state that if any one will take the responsibility of making a definite charge, either in or out of the Senate, he will institute legal proceedings in order to enable him to meet those who make the accusation on fair terms.
– I rise, as a matter of privilege, to submit a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission. The reply to my question is that if certain things are done legal proceedings will be taken. I venture to say that no one knows better than does the gentleman “who leads the Government here that what is said in the Senate cannot be brought before the Law Courts of this country.
– Yes, it can.
– I can assure the honorable senator that it cannot.
– This is not a Law Court, so that we cannot decide a legal question.
– I do not ,pose as a legal authority, but I have had the advice of gentlemen who are qualified to advise, and that advice convinces me that no Court can, even if no plea is put forward, use its jurisdiction over any honorable senator in respect to anything which he has said here.
– Is he the same legal adviser who said that the home service proclamation was illegal?
– No, he is not. That being the case, and a most serious charge against the Prime Minister having been made by Senator Watson-
– The charge of having a friendly conversation.
– Never mind the circumstances. The fact remains that the Prime Minister is alleged to have said, “ If money stands in your way, I never go back on a friend,” which I interpret to mean that if it were a question of money with Senator Watson, the Prime Minister would make it all right. That is the charge, and I say that the honour of this Chamber, the honour of Parliament, and the honour of Tasmania cannot allow it to rest there.
– The honour of Tasmania is all right; do not worry about that.
– I do not know the point upon which Senator Gardiner is raising this question of privilege. But, under our parliamentary practice, action cannot be taken on a matter of privilege without notice, unless it be a matter which suddenly arises, or which has arisen since the last day of sitting. It will be seen, therefore, that unless the question which Senator Gardiner wishes to raise falls within that category, he must give notice of his intention to raise it.
– Since the last day of sitting a writ has been issued against a member of this Chamber.
– Did it find him?
– He is here to find the writ. Instructions had been given to his solicitor to receive the writ. I think, therefore, that I shall be quite in order in proceeding with my motion.
– Of course, I am not aware that a writ has been issued since the last day of sitting.
– Officially, you may be unaware of it, but unofficially you are aware of it, seeing that the matter has been mentioned in the press and the Courts of this country.
– If the honorable senator asks me to act on knowledge which I may have gained unofficially, I shall have to rule that the question is not one which has arisen since the last day of sitting, because it was mentioned before then.
– I am now in a position, through Senator Watson, to assure you, sir, that since the last day of sitting a writ has been served upon him.
– Is the honorable senator’s motion limited to Senator Watson ?
– It is not; and I do hope that the Leader of the Government in this Chamber will not endeavour to interpose any obstacle to a full inquiry being undertaken. We are faced with a very big thing, and we do not want any technicalities to prevent a most thorough investigation.
– Not even the technicality of privilege.
– When the honour of this Chamber is attacked, it cannot be said that I am endeavouring to break down the privileges of honorable senators-
– The privilege tn slander others from a position df security.
– The Minister for Defence has exercised that privilege pretty freely.
– An honorable senator has made grave charges against the Prime Minister, charges which in conjunction with the disappearance of a majority from this side of the chamber and the appearance of a majority on the other side of it, give a very good colouring to them.
– That is the trouble.
– It is the trouble. They have created so much suspicion
– In the guilty mind.
– And in the public mind.
– -These charges were sufficiently grave to induce Senator Bakhap to alter the opinion he had formed on the matter of our delegates to the Imperial War Conference at once proceeding to England, and to notify his leader that his mind was in the balance, and that the Government could not depend upon him to support the motion for the prolongation of the life of this Parliament. These are the reasons why I wish clearly to be put before the Senate the question of whether it has the courage to order an inquiry into these allegations - allegations touching the reputation of Senator Earle and affecting, so far as conversations can affect them, the Minister for Defence and you, Mr. President. You, sir, said that you would welcome an investigation.
– What was Senator Watson’s reply to that?
– I venture to say that Senator Watson’s reply will be given her© to-day. It will be the reply of every man who desires to see this matter thoroughly sifted.
– Except in the Law Courts, where all would meet on equal terms.
– The advice that has been tendered to me is that the Law Courts have no jurisdiction over what is said in this Senate.
– Who is the honorable senator’s adviser?
– A very high legal authority. I do not think I am called upon to make any statement upon that aspect of the question.
– The honorable senator ought to give his authority.
– I have been informed by a legal gentleman - and his opinion has been backed by quotations from the reports of the Law Courts of Great Britain - that if this question goes into Court, and Senator Watson does not plead at all, the decision of the Court must be that it does not come within its jurisdiction.
– But Senator Watson does not want to shelter himself behind that circumstance.
– There is no sheltering at all. The Court simply has not the power to adjudicate. I make that statement on the strength of the advice that has been tendered to ‘me. Senator Watson’s statement was made on account of the resignation of Senator Ready. He said that that resignation appeared to him an act of treachery which compelled him to put before the Senate the offer which had been made to him to do something which ex-Senator Ready had done.
– That has never been stated by Senator Watson.
– I venture to say that if Senator Senior will read Senator Watson’s statement, he will find that that is the substance of it. When the honour of the Commonwealth, and the honour of the Senate, are at stake, and when men holding high positions of State are impugned, I venture to say that you, Mr. President, would welcome the fullest inquiry before a tribunal in . order that the whole of your connexion with this matter might be made perfectly plain to the public. Senator Pearce would welcome the same thing.
– Not he. He admitted collusion with the Prime Minister.
– You repeat those charges outside, and I will give you an opportunity to prove them.
– I venture to say that Senator Earle’s coming into this
Senate immediately after the resignation of Mr. Ready-
– The Minister for Defence can boast about His money now, but he had not much money to bring libel actions when he left the carpenter’s bench.
– I ask honorable senators to keep order. Senator Gardiner has a right to be heard in silence when making a serious statement. This cross-fire of interjections prevents him from making his speech’, and I shall be compelled to take stronger action if honorable senators do not obey my request.
– The ‘ last thought I have in my mind in making this statement is to say anything that will cause anger between honorable senators, or to put any honorable senator in a false position. I am simply asking for a full investigation. If Senator Watson’s’ case came before the Law Courts, the laws of evidence would limit the hearing simply to evidence upon the actual words used, and then, I take it, that it would be a matter for the jury to decide between the assertion by Senator Watson and the denial by the Prime Minister. We are confronted with something more than that. Senator Watson’s statement forms the foundation of a very grave suspicion in the minds of honorable senators that there was something wrong with Senator Ready’s resignation and the hurried appointment of Senator Earle. Let us look how these matters work out, and see if there are not some grounds for that suspicion.
– You want a fishing expedition.
– I am not on any fishing expedition, and the honorable senator knows it. Speaking of the part Tasmania has played in this matter, on Friday, 23rd February, the Premier of Tasmania received an urgent communication to go to Sydney-
– Order ! I must confine the honorable senator entirely within the limits fixed by the rules and procedure of the Senate. He has intimated to me that he has risen to a question of privilege, because Senator Watson has been, served with a writ since the last sitting day for something he said in the Senate. Every argument that can be adduced relative to that issue of privilege the honorable senator will be perfectly entitled to advance, but he will not be in order in bringing in extraneous matter. I must therefore ask the honorable senator to keep strictly to the point.
Sena,tor GARDINER). - I am asking for a full inquiry. Are you, sir, going to rule that I cannot refer to all the suspicious circumstances surrounding the case? You will, of course, be at liberty to do so, but I will not hold my. peace by force of the Standing Orders of the Senate interpreted in one way only.
– I have not ruled that the honorable senator is out of order,, because as I have not the wording of his proposed motion before me, I cannot say whether his remarks are in order or not. He has, however, intimated that he is raising a question of privilege which has arisen since the last sitting day. That is the only class of question which under the Standing Orders can be proceeded with without notice. If Senator Watson since the last sitting day has been served with a writ, the honorable senator will be perfectly entitled to use everything relative to that issue. All these other statements can be made on notice, but the honorable senator is not entitled to make them on this question without notice.
– That ruling will give me all the latitude I want, and I thank you for it, because Senator Watson, in making his statement, said he made it owing to the resignation of Senator Ready. Therefore, in putting my case, if I put before the Senate the circumstances that led up to Senator Ready’s resignation, I shall merely be putting the circumstances, that led up to Senator Watson’s statement, and eventually resulted in Senator Watson receiving a writ. As I was pointing out, the Prime Minister wired to the Premier of Tasmania asking him to meet him in Sydney. Mr. Lee hurriedly went to Sydney and met the Prime Minister. I have since seen a statement from him that they discussed wheat, apples, and hops, and that the Prime Minister had also made him aware that there would be a vacancy in the Senate owing to the resignation of a Tasmanian senator, and that he, the Premier of Tasmania, thought that, as Senator Long was suffering from a malady, Senator Long was about to resign. The Prime Minister and the Premier of Tasmania came from Sydney together. On the Monday, when the two of them were together in Sydney, Senator
Ready left Melbourne, and went to Tasmania, and returned from Tasmania in the same boat as Mr. Earle.
– Perfectly true.
– Then when the Premier of Tasmania reached Melbourne he hurriedly returned to his own State.
I understand that he left here on the Wednesday and reached Hobart at about 6 o’clock on Thursday evening. That evening his Cabinet sat, and the Executive sat and received the wire stating that Senator Ready had resigned. By one of these coincidences that have happened all through this matter - and it is coincidences that lend suspicion to it - the Cabinet was sitting. I suppose they had been apprised that the sitting would be necessary. The Executive was called together, and a telegram containing Mr. Earle’s resignation came in at that opportune time. When that resignation came before the Cabinet and Executive it was approved of. The Governor informed the GovernorGeneral, and sent along, I take it, by wire, a certificate that Mr. Earle was to fill the vacancy. Senator Ready resigned his seat so far as the President is concerned at one minute past 6 o’clock. At quarter-past 10 next morning Mr. President found a certificate from the GovernorGeneral that Mr. Earle had been appointed. There was no go-slow policy about that. That conveys to my mind, side by side with the Prime Minister’s statement in another place, that he knew there would be a resignation from one of the senators for Tasmania, and laid his plans accordingly.
– That is not disputed, is it ?
– Everybody knows that Ready was bought. AH they are troubled about is the price that was paid.
– Why do you not say that outside? Ex-Senator Ready has challenged anybody to say it outside.
– I have no desire, in moving for an inquiry, to make charges. I am trying to put fairly before the Senate my view that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the demand for an inquiry which compel me to refer to these matters. I have shown that the Tasmanian Executive was sitting in the evening. The Governor-General received the certificate from the Governor of Tasmania, and sent it on to the Senate, so that when the Senate met at
II o’clock that morning, Mr. Earle could be sworn in as a senator. That statement shows that the Premier of Tasmania and the Prime Minister knew there was to be a vacancy in the Senate.
– I do not think that it is disputed, and I cannot understand why you are raising the point.
– I will tell the honorable senator. The party to which Senator Ready belonged, and with which he was in close association, heard nothing of the vacancy at that time. After Senator Ready’s unfortunate illness - I do not wish for a moment to cast a shadow of suspicion on the genuineness of his illness
– No; but your coleader in the other House said he was “ doped.”
– Politically “doped.”
– No, he did not.
– He said that it was rumoured that Senator Ready had been “ doped.” And in reply to a question, Mr. Tudor said he believed it.
– Then that is all the more reason why there should be a searching investigation into all the circumstances.
– It appears, then, that every reckless charge is to be made the subject of an inquiry. . .
– If a mildmannered man like Mr. Tudor makes a statement of that kind, I say that is all the more reason why there should be an inquiry. Here is the position: The resignation which led up to the charges’ made by Senator Watson was known to senators on that side of the Senate at least five days before it was known on our side.
– Now you are broadening the statement by saying that senators on this side knew of the intended resignation.
– I take it that members of the Government knew what the Prime Minister knew.
– You can say that if you like, but it is not true.
– The honorable senator should be very particular. Does he say that senators on this side of the chamber knew of the intended resignation of Senator Ready? I tell him that I did not, at all events. I knew nothing whatever about it.
– I quite agree that one should be very careful when speaking on a subject like this. I should say that at least one member of the Government knew there was to be a vacancy in the Tasmanian representation of the Senate, and that that member of the Government was the Prime Minister, who laid his plans accordingly.
– But the honorable senator said that senators on this side knew of it.
– Then I will withdraw that statement. I simply referred to senators on the other side as members of one party.
– I knew nothing about it.
– The Leader of the Opposition knew before we did.
– Let me say that, as regards myself, at 2 o’clock on the day that Senator Ready resigned, he was on the telephone in conversation with Senator Needham, the acting Whip of our party, who was inquiring if he would be here to vote on that afternoon. We wanted to know whether his health would be sufficiently good for him to attend, and Senator Needham asked him if he could let him know at about a quarter to 3 o’clock.
– And we knew about the resignation at 8 o’clock that night.
– At half-past 2 o’clock Senator Ready called me up on the telephone and told me that his resignation was in the hands of the President. I at once said, “Don’t resign. What is the number of your room? I will come down and see you.” I immediately went down to the Commercial Travellers’ Club, and saw Senator Ready in room 410, to be exact, and urged him not to put his resignation in. He said, “ It is already in the hands of Mr. President.” As an old parliamentarian I knew what a flood of suspicion would come down on Senator Ready by his hasty action, and I endeavoured to persuade him to hold it over. When I came back to the Senate at fifteen minutes past 6 o’clock I asked Mr. President if he had received the resignation, but I did not get any reply. Then at 8 o’clock, as all honorable senators know, Mr. President announced that he had received
Senator Ready’s resignation. That is all I know of the incident.
– We knew at 8 o’clock, and you knew at 3 o’clock.
– Will the honorable senator tell us all about the row at the last Caucus meeting which Senator Ready attended ?
– I have no doubt it would be most interesting to other honorable senators if I disclosed on the floor of this Senate anything that happened in Caucus, but I can assure him that the proceedings in Caucus on that occasion were a great deal more orderly than they have been in the Senate of late.
– I would not be surprised at that.
– Now that the matter has been mentioned by the honorable senator, I would like to inform the Senate that at that meeting Senator Ready was very anxious that we should stop Supply and force on a dissolution of both Houses, but I - shall I say with my usual caution ? - was very anxious that that course should not be adopted, because, although it might mean a passing advantage to stop Supply on one occasion, it might do a lasting injury to the Constitution and the Senate. There was not the faintest semblance of a row at that Caucus meeting. It was conducted in an orderly manner. The members expressed their views on different questions, and we came to a unanimous decision.
– Evidently you have learned the wisdom about not stopping Supply since you left Western Australia, then.
– I think I have already corrected the honorable senator in regard to that matter. While in Western Australia I said nothing about blocking Supply, because I had quite a number of other resources to drive thisGovernment to the country, and I think we have pretty well succeeded, although Senator Bakhap will not allow us to claim credit for forcing the Government to take this course.
– We have been asking for an appeal to the people ever since Parliament met.
– Yes, and praying to God that the request would not be acceded to.
– We have had a statement made by the Prime Minister recently to the effect that if he had had’ behind him a loyal party after 28th October he would have appealed to the country three months ago.
– He should have said that if he had had charge of a party which he thought was loyal to him–
– Well, the Prime Minister said that if he had had a loyal party behind him he would have taken a certain course, but as a matter of fact we all know that this Parliament has waited too long for an appeal to ite masters, the people. The circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator Ready, the fact that he kept it secret from members of his party until the resignation was in the hands of Mr. President, all go to show that even supposing him to be the most honorable man in the world, there is good ground for an investigation. I do not mean to suggest, Mr. President, that you had the resignation before the hour mentioned, because I do not think you had, but the information in my possession goes to show that it is more than probable that Senator Ready sent his resignation through Mr. Jensen, in whose office and company he had been at 1 o’clock on the day he was too ill to attend Parliament, and, incidentally, too ill to attend the Caucus meeting in the morning. These incidents give reason for strong suspicion that something wrong has happened to the public life in this country.
– You can smell it a hundred miles away.
– To the credit of Australia it can be said that its Parliaments have been always ready to investigate circumstances in which there has been any suspicion of bribery and corruption, and fortunately our Parliaments have been practically free from any imputations of that character. I am speaking quite earnestly, and without any party flavour at all, when I say that this is an occasion for a full and searching inquiry.
– Will the honorable senator deny the correctness of anything in Mr. Ready’s public statement?
– I am not going to either deny or to affirm the correctness of these statements. But I say that the very appearance of Mr. Ready’s statement in the press this morning warrants the Senate in investigating to the utmost every circumstance surrounding his resignation.
– Because a man says he is ill, and retires, does that require an investigation to be held ? I could resign now if I liked.
– You are reported to have said that there would not be an election. You were talking in the Domain then, I assume?
– No. I may be rightly or wrongly reported, but very rarely am I wrongly reported, because I generally make myself understood. I said that the Government had fixed the date for the issue of the writs two days after the conclusion of the New South Wales elections. I have not sufficient confidence in this Government to think that, if they could hang on to office, they would agree to the issue of the writs.
– Are you inclined to take a wager about it ?
– Order !
– The Minister knows that that kind of thing is not allowed in this honorable Senate. I venture to say that Mr. Ready’s statement in this morning’s newspapers, which-
– Is a clear one.
– Which is not a clear one-
– And will satisfy any unbiased mind.
– I hope that it satisfied the honorable senator.
– It did.
– I do not know whether I am biased or not, but the statement went a long way from satisfying me. I feel my position here so strongly that I am prepared to go before any Commission to be examined and crossexamined by any barristers.
– What does the honorable senator know ?
– I am the chief figure in the statement which appeared in this morning’s newspapers. Mr. Ready, instead of dealing with the reasons why he resigned his seat, dealt with something which happened between him and me. I prefer that these happenings should be fought out before some competent tribunal, which would be able to come to a decision.
– Are you referring to the statement of Mr. Ready that you were an advocate for a prolongation of the life of this Parliament?
– I can quite see that the Minister would like me to prolong this debate. I might as well say here that, when Mr. Webster raised the question of prolonging the life of Parliament, he had a most ingenious and, shall I say satisfactory, way of settling the result of an appeal to the country by both Houses simultaneously, in order to avoid the holding of two elections at a later period. I think that the whole of Parliament were agreed on that point. Prom that time until now, I have been of the opinion that the State Parliaments could grant to the Federal Parliament the power to enable us to arrange our own parliamentary matters. I was of thatopinion when the debate took place elsewhere.
– Do you think that the States could empower this Parliament to lengthen its life ?
– I do, because the six resolutions were submitted to extend the powers of this Parliament to a very great extent. We all know that the State Parliaments agreed to extend our powers.
– They were powers within the jurisdiction of the States, and, therefore, they could transfer them to us. Senator GARDINER. - I may be altogether wrong, but I claim that, as the Senate is the representative of the States in the Federal Parliament, and as each of the States issues the writs for the Senate election, the power to prolong the life of this Parliament is within the jurisdiction of the States, and, therefore, the States could alter our Constitution in order to give us that power.
– Do you seriously believe that?
– It may be altogether wrong, but that was the view I hold on the question. I took up that stand as well as I was able, believing fully that the States had that power.
– Did the same lawyer advise you in that way?
– No. That was my own opinion. There are one or two constitutional points on which I have been found to be right.
– Are you sure that that is your opinion ?
– That is the Opinion which I expressed on a great many occasions and argued in the club loom with a great many honorable senators. It will take more than the constitutional knowledge possessed by the honorable senator to shift me from my opinion that if the State Parliaments had the power to give us the six constitutional amendments which we asked for, they alsohad thepower to give us the authority toput our own house in order and arrange our own elections, particularly as regardsthe Senate. As regards the proposed prolongation of the lifeof this Parliament there was onegreat man at the bottom of the movement, and that was Mr. Webster. He never hesitated about the matter. I think that, in justice to him, I ought to say that he had a very ingenious system of automatically adjusting; any differences arising from a dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It was a very desirable thing: for any member of Parliament to fight for. When the matter came before the Labour party, the intention was that when the constitutional amendments went to the country that question also should be submitted.
– I do not think that I ever heard it mentioned before.
– I am sorry.
– It was the seventh question to be submitted.
– Yes. I have been led into being very discursive, but, perhaps, it is well that the matter should be dealt with here. I think that all honorable senators will agree that this is an unsavoury matter. I, for one, do not revel in having to say anything suspicious about any one. I do not quickly desert old friends, and I suppose I feel as much as any honorable senator will feel the fact that a man who was my friend yesterday is my political opponent to-day. I do not wipe him out of existence because of that fact. The statement of Mr. Ready in the press this morning cannot be allowed to rest where it is. Perhaps he is in ill-health, and, therefore, is not able to make the sort of reply which he should make. I wish to make all allowance for him.
– Meet his statements.
– I prefer that the statements of Mr. Ready should be dealt with by a tribunal which will be altogether removed from the prejudice of suspicion, and arrive at a decision which the people of this country will accept.
– Do you mean tosay that Mr. Ready’s statements are untrue?
– The statements of Mr. Ready are, possibly, a very fair repetition of the view which his mind carried away from the meeting. But if my view were put before the public it would be quite different, because we looked at these things from different stand-points.
– Let us have it.
– I stand here to move for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the charges made by Senator Watson, and all the circumstances concerning the resignation of Senator Ready, and the appointment of Mr. Earle.
– Would you mind giving us the name of the legal authority who said that a Law Court cannot try this case?
– I promise the honorable senator that I will immediately write out the honorable gentleman’s name and give it to him. The only reason I had for not giving the name was that it was a hurried consultation-
– The reason is that you did not pay for the opinion.
– It will not be paid for with secret service money anyhow.
– That, I think, will satisfy Senator Lynch. When honorable senators have reached that frame of mind in which they deal in this offensive way with an honorable senator who has made a statement-
– I understand that Senator Gardiner regards as offensive a statement made by Senator Guthrie that he did not pay for the legal opinion which he got. I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the remark if it is offensive. I did not wish to say anything offensive to the ‘ honorable senator.
– I am very glad that the honorable senator has withdrawn the remark, because it was offensive on his part to say that I had not paid for the opinion.
– What I meant to convey was that it wasnot given to you as a professional opinion.
– It was not only an opinion, but it was backed up by such unmistakable evidence that no man of common sense after hearing it could be lieve that the charge of Senator Watson could be taken before a Court.
– That will be settled in about eight days.
– Of course an opinion is only given on the statement which you make to the lawyer advising you.
– The opinion was given on the whole question of the writ issued against Senator Watson, and it is that a Court cannot try the case. That is a definite opinion which I accept, and I put it to honorable senators as a reason why I am submitting this motion. As we have failed to get the case tried in a Court, and as this matter cannot be smothered up-
– No, you have not.
– The insistent voice of the people of this country will not permit us to smother up the case.
– That is not so.
– I venture to say that fixed hard and fast in the minds of the people of this country there is a very grave suspicion, that the disappearance of the majority from one side of the Senate, and the appearance of a majority on the other side was not brought about by fair means.
– On a point of order, sir, is it not an offensive statement to remark that the disappearance of somebody fromthe other side to this side was not brought about by fair means? It is offensive to me. There was no unfair means employed as regards myself bringing anyone to this side.
– If the honorable senator regards the remark as offensive to himself, I ask Senator Gardiner to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark. Seeing that the public have had all these facts laid before them in the newspapers-
– Alleged facta.
– I do not care whether the honorable senator wants facts or alleged facts.
– There is a great ileal of difference between the two.
– These statements have been published in the newspapers, and the quick-minded public have formed their own conclusion.
– Especially when Mr. Mathews says, “It will catch votes, and that is what we want.”
– Whichstatementhe has denied in Parliament.
SenatorPearce. - No!
– In the House of Representatives he denied the statement on Friday.
– I saw the report in the Age.
– You are using your privilege now to slander.
– Mr. Mathews did not deny the statement until it was brought up against him.
– The public are most deeply interested in this case. The fact that when a division was taken on a similar motion in another place, Mr. McWilliams, a representative of Tasmania, broke away from his own party, and voted for an investigation, believing that the honour of his own State was impugned - that of itself is a strong ground why we should have an investigation.
– Because Mr. McWilliams voted in that way?
– Do you suggest that he had been bribed by the Opposition ?
– I regret to hear that statement coming from the Minister for Defence. I know that he has been overwrought, but I should imagine that he must have lost his intellect altogether when he makes an idiotic interjection of that kind. When a reputable public man severs his connexion with his party and votes for an inquiry to be held, 1 think that it can be fairly pointed to as a very legitimate reason why the Senate, which is more implicated than the other House in these charges, can demand an investigation why we should go out of our way to appoint, not a party or a prejudiced tribunal, but a Royal Commission, which will make a full and exhaustive inquiry into these charges.
– Save us from the Law Courts.
– Therefore, I will conclude by submitting the following motion : -
That a Royal Commission be appointed immediately to investigate and report -
On the charges made by Senator Watson against the Prime Minister, the Eight Honorable W. M. Hughes.
The circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator R. K. Ready, and the appointment of Mr. John Earle to the Senate.
That a Justice of the High Court be commissioned to conduct the inquiry.
In submitting this motion, I feel that I am only doing my duty, not merely to the Opposition, but to the whole of the Senate.
– The question now arises as to whether this is a matter of privilege suddenly arising, or arising since the last sitting day, which is the only question of privilege that can be brought forward without notice. The standing order governing motions - No. 115 - is very plain. It reads -
No senator shall, unless by leave of the Senate, unless it be otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders, make any motion, except in pursuance of notice openly given at a previous sitting of the Senate, and duly entered on the notice-paper.
Therefore, this question can be brought forward without notice only by leave of the Senate, which Senator Gardiner would have to obtain, “ unless it be otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders.” Then standing order 118 reads -
Whenever a matter or question, directly concerning the privileges of theSenate, or of any Committee or member thereof, has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, a motion calling upon the Senate to take action thereon may be moved, without notice, and shall, until decided, unless the debate be adjourned, suspend the consideration of other motions, as well as Orders of the Day.
That is very clear. At the outset of his remarks, when I intimated to Senator Gardiner that a question of privilege could be raised without notice only on a matter which had suddenly arisen, or which had arisen since the last day of sitting, he pointed out that this question had arisen since the last day of sitting, because Senator Watson had been served with a writ since our last sitting day because of something he had said in this chamber.
– And because exSenator Ready has made a statement in reference to myself.
– I am merely acting as I am bound to act, to secure the observance of our Standing Orders. Senator Gardiner intimated to me that a question of privilege had arisen because of the fact that Senator Watson had been served with a writ since our last sitting day, regarding something which he had said in the Senate. Upon that matter, Senator Gardiner would be perfectly justified in raising a question of privilege, and in moving a motion. For example, if he had moved that the serving of a writ on Senator Watson was a breach of the privileges of this Senate, he would have been quite in order; but the motion which he has submitted reads -
That a Royal Commission be appointed immediately to investigate and report -
On the charges made by Senator Watson against the Prime Minister, the Bight Honorable W. M. Hughes.
Now, the whole Senate knows that that is a matter which has not arisen since the last day of sitting. It was debated here for several days previously. His motion continues - (2)The circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator R.K. Ready and the appointment of Mr. John Earle to the Senate.
Neither of those matters has arisen since the last day of sitting. Both of them had been referred to for several days previously, and had been hotly debated. Therefore, I must rule Senator Gardiner’s motion out of order. At the same time, I would pointout to him that it is a perfectly proper motion to submit on notice, and as the time for receiving notices of motion to-day has not expired, he will be quite in order in giving notice of it for to-morrow, when it would come on for consideration in the ordinary way; but, under our Standing Orders, I must rule thatthe motion is not properly before the Senate.
– Then . I move - That the ruling of the President be disagreed with, on the ground that it would unduly curtail the privileges of honorable senators.
– Our Standing Orders provide that such a motion must stand over until the next day of sitting, unless the Senate decides that it requires immediate settlement.. I propose to hold it over till to-morrow so that I may look up the necessary authorities to sustain my ruling, unless the Senate decides that it requires immediate settlement. The standing order dealing with the President’s ruling reads -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the Senate, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
– Your ruling, sir, so curtails the privileges of honorable senators that I think it ought to be decided forthwith.
– Otherwise we shall be a muddled Senate.
Motion (by Senator Grant) proposed-
That the question requires immediate determination.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
SenatorTurley. - In what way?
Whenever a matter or question directly concerning the privileges of the Senate, or of any Committee or member thereof, has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, a motion calling upon the Senate to take action thereon may be moved without notice, and shall, until decided, unless the debate be adjourned, suspend the consideration of other motions, as well as Orders of the Day.
All other motions, except ones specified in theStanding Orders, or ones on which the leave of the Senate has been first obtained, must be moved only on notice, as is provided by standing order 115 -
No senator shall, unless by leave of the Senate, unless it be otherwise specifically provided by the Standing Orders, make any motion, except in pursuance of notice openly given at a previous sitting of the Senate, and duly entered on the notice-paper.
Therefore Senator Gardiner is manifestly not in order, unless he moves with regard to something which has arisen since the last sitting day of the Senate. He intimated, when speaking to me, that the matter upon which he wished to raise the question of privilege and move a motion was that Senator Watson had been served with a writ since the last sitting day in connexion with something which he said in this Senate. It is manifest that Senator Gardiner would have been perfectly justified in raising that question, and in moving a motion on it. If he had moved that the service of a writ on Senator Watson was a breach of the privileges of the Senate, he would have been perfectly in order, because, according to his own statement, the matter had arisen since the last sitting day, but there is not a word in the motion about Senator Watson having been served with a writ. The motion is -
That a Royal Commission be appointed immediately to investigate and report -
On the charges made by Senator Watson against the Prime Minister, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes.
The circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator R. K. Ready and the appointment of Mr. John Earle to the Senate.
That a Justice of the High Court be commissioned to conduct the inquiry.
Where is there a single word in that motion about Senator Watson having been served with a writ? There is not the slightest allusion to it. Let me see if any of the matters mentioned in the motion have arisen since the last sitting day. Have the charges made by Senator Watson against the Prime Minister arisen since the last sitting day? They arose eleven days ago, and have been hotly debated for several sittings in the Senate. Therefore they couldnot have arisen suddenly, or have arisen since the last sitting. No one can dispute, therefore, that I am perfectly right in ruling that any question connected with that matter must be raised in the usual way by giving notice, because it has nothing to justify it except party feeling or party strife, with which I as President have nothing to do. The next subject of inquiry is the circumstances surrounding the resignation “ of SenatorReady and the appointment of Senator Earle. Has that matter arisen suddenly, or since the last sitting day? Was it not referred to several times by Senator Gardiner himself at previous sittings? Therefore no one can contend that that is a matter which can be brought up without notice under standing order 118. Those are the only two matters contained in the motion. If the Senate disagrees with my ruling, it must desire me to act directly contrary to the Standing Orders, to the practice and procedure of the Senate, and to the practice and procedure of the House of Commons, which is the mother of Parliaments. My position would be a very curious one if I were not to be guided by the Standing Orders and by the recognised parliamentary procedure, which goes back through centuries, but rather by party feeling and a desire to promote party advantages. I refuse to do anything of the sort in my position as President of the Senate. If my ruling is to be decided by the Standing Orders, by the practice and procedure of the Senate, and by the practice and procedure of the House of Commons, it must be upheld and supported by every man who has a proper regard for the honour and dignity of Parliament.
Question - That the ruling of the President be disagreed with - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I must ask honorable senators’ to look for a few moments at all the circumstances of the position confronting the Government. The Senate is asked by the motion to call upon the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into certain matters. I think I am stating the case fairly if I say that the motion, taken in conjunction with statements made here and elsewhere, means that the Commission should inquire into some circumstances giving rise to a feeling of grave suspicion - to use the terms employed by Senator Gardiner - and that suspicion attaches in some way or other to the Government. If that is so, I do not think honorable senators will dispute it when I say that I have a just complaint to make, namely, that after allowing this matter to rest for eleven days, the Leader of the Opposition, without giving me the slightest opportunity of considering the position, and - what is absolutely necessary for one in my position to do - to confer with the Government, brings this matter on, not as an ordinary motion, which would have given ample notice, but in a manner which demands instant reply and an instant’s decision as to the action to be taken by the Government. I am well aware what party fighting means. But is all the sporting instinct of my political opponents dead ? Can they not see there is an element of unfairness in the course adopted to-day ?
– Unfairness ?
– Yes, because I have not had an opportunity to consider the matter or confer with my colleagues.
– I asked you on the last day of sitting if you would reconsider your decision, and you said you would consult with the Prime Minister.
– Yes, and that shows that this motion is not urgent, and that the question did not occur since our last sitting day. It was only fair and courteous to have given me some notice that this motion was coming on. Let me come now to the proposal itself. I again direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that whilst there has been a very liberal flow of language, and imputations of grave suspicion have been thrown about, not one member of the Opposition has yet taken the responsibility of making a definite charge against any individual. Because certain people choose to think that certain circumstances are suspicious, is the mere affirmation of that suspicion sufficient justification for the appointment of a Royal Commission? Mr. Hughes has taken up the position that if any person, either in or out of this Parliament, thinks fit to make any definite charge, he will give his accuser the fullest opportunity of making his charges good before one of the Courts of this country.
– The charges concern more than one man; you know that.
– Yes; and if you make a definite charge, as you are invited to do, the statements will be investigated before the Law Courts, and you can get in all the men you want.
– No, we cannot.
– Why go to the Law Courts when we can have a Royal Commission ?
– Why shrink from the Law Courts if you are right] So far as I am concerned - I have no reason, however, to suppose that I am personally concerned in the statements that have been made - if any honorable senator chooses to make any charge against me, I will want, not only to clear myself, but I will endeavour also to make the man responsible for such accusations pay for his recklessness. If any honorable senator used the privileges of the Senate to make certain statements and libel me, I would look to the Courts for redress; and if he refused io face that tribunal, the country would estimate those charges at their true worth. Now, what are these statements? I have given honorable senators an instance of the reckless expressions which characterize them. Somehow or other, there was conjured up the imputation that Senator Ready had been doped. Does any honorable senator believe that?
– Not one.
– Not one, of course; and yet I have heard, with my own ears, the statement that a rumour was in circulation to this effect, and the Leader of the Opposition in another place, when questioned on the matter, said he believed the statement.
– No, he did not. Read Hansard.
– I tell the honorable senator that I heard the statement. If, however, Mr. Tudor did not believe the rumour, what becomes of the charge and the necessity for publicity in the form of this rumour?
– Mr. Tudor did not say anything of the sort.
– Did he not make some reference to it ?
– He did not say Senator Ready was doped.
– I am going on the evidence of my own ears. What was the good of bringing up this ‘rumour except to poison the public mind with the idea that something of that kind had been practised? When men are prepared to make reckless charges of that kind, not mentioning any names, but merely throwing out statements concerning scandalous and infamous charges, we have a right to ask if, in the absence of any bona fides, they are entitled to call upon the Government to constitute a fishing inquiry. For that is all that this motion means. They know nothing, but act on the principle, “ Heads I win, tails you lose,” hoping that something will come out at this inquiry by Royal Commission which they may turn to political advantage. On the other hand, if they do not succeed, they lose nothing, and suffer nothing. It is only a subterfuge. The doors of the Courts are open awaiting the investigation of these matters. Senator Gardiner has himself disposed of the reasonableness of any question of privilege, in which I understand it is the intention of Senator Watson now to take refuge. In speaking on the subject, the honorable senator said -
As we fail to have the case tried in the Court-
I tell the honorable senator that he need not fail. Behind him sits the man who can give him the key to the Court. Senator Watson holds the key. It is not a question if “we fail to have the case tried in the Court,” but whether Senator Watson will allow us to have it tried there.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not so. He knows that the Court has no jurisdiction in such a matter.
– I not only know nothing of the kind, but I venture to tell the honorable senator now that the veil behind which he is trying to hide himself will be rent in twain in a few days. He will find that this flimsy pretext of privilege will not secure him or Senator Watson from the consequences of the action Senator Watson has elected to take. Senator Gardiner further said -
If Senator Watson’s case should come before the Court-
There is just the same idea. The honorable senator is trying to convince the people outside, and doubtless himself - though that is a difficult proposition at any time - he is trying to convince the people outside, and to persuade himself that there is no opening in that direction. Before honorable senators opposite comehere and pretend that the Court is closed to them, they should give us some evidencethat the Court itself has closed its doors to them. It is not sufficient for them to say that they believe the Court is not open to hear their case; we should know that the Court itself has refused to do so. The case is now before the Court, and, until it refuses to hear it, I will be no party to the creation of a Royal Commission to take from the Court its proper work and jurisdiction. If Senator Watson can comeback here and say, “ I have sought the Court, but it refused to hear me. It would not allow me to present my case to it,” he will then have some claim to invite the Senate to indorse this motion.
– The Senate would not be sitting ten days later. The honorable senator is very clever, but he is not quite clever enough.
– My honorable friends opposite lost eleven days in this matter.
– We did not lose five minutes after the motion was defeated in another place.
– Does not Senator Mullan see that he is now answering the vote which he has just recorded, and is establishing his own inconsistency? Before these gentlemen can come here and pretend that the Court is closed to them, they must show us that the Court itself” has declined to hear them. They cannot pretend that that is the position to-day. The Court is there, so far as we know, waiting to hear Senator Watson. If the Court refuses to listen to him, or to investigate the statements he has made, then, and only then, will the honorable senator have a right to ask the Senate to adopt this motion. I have been furnished with a Hansard report which I wish to read to the Senate. . It is as follows : -
Does the honorable gentleman think that we have no right to take exception to the very cruel statement he made to-day?
That was an inquiry made in another place by Mr. Poynton, and to that inquiry Mr. Tudor replied -
I believe that about the man.
Mr. Poynton. You believe that he was drugged ?
Mr. Tudor. Yes. I think he was doped. Senator MCDOUGALL - That is not in Hansard.
– It is here in a Hansard proof.
– It is not in *Hansard.**
– Then Hansard has been “cooked.” I read the proof today, and heard the statement made with my own ears. It is strange that men should be so lost to all sense of decency ag to make reckless charges of this kind. Between doping and murder there is only the narrow margin of accident. We are deliberately told here that we used some sort of chemical or poisonous substance to reduce a man to insensibility ; but is there any honorable senator present who will say that he believes that?
– They went further, and suggested that some member of our party did it.
– They do not believe it. The whole thing is politics. There is only one man on the other side who has been honest enough to speak out about the matter, and that is Mr. Mathews. I understand that he has been carpeted in consequence.
– Nothing of the sort. He made a statement on the subject of his own volition in another place on Friday last.
– Mr. Mathews is like a great many other people. They are rather anxious to ‘figure on the platform as the first purveyors of news, but they become a little frightened next morning at what they have said, and they suddenly discover how incompetent the reporters of this country are. I want to direct attention to on? other matter, and I do so as much in the interests of Senator Watson as in those of any one else. In his original statement the honorable senator declared that he had viewed the conversations which he had with the President, Senator Pearce, and the Prim? Minister as the friendly advice of men well disposed towards him, but he gave them a sinister meaning after the occurrence of what is known as “ The Ready incident “ some fortnight later. When I was speak-
** Vide* page 11045. ing here some time last week I asked Senator Watson the specific question : At what point of time did he commence to consider these conversations as being sinister? He then said - and his statement is recorded in Hansard - that it was at the last interview with Mr. Hughes. It was then he became suspicious. In explaining why he did not make his charges her? until many days after he said that it was only when the Ready incident occurred that he considered the conversations sinister. Which of these statements is true? Here are two contradictory statements.
– I am taking the honorable senator’s good advice, and will say nothing to anything he may say.
– That is good advice; it is the same advice which the policeman gives to the man whom he is arresting. He tells him to hold his tongue.
– That is good advice - in the presence of a sharper hold your tongue.
– Thank God, I am not an informer.
– Order ! Certain expressions are being used across the chamber which, while they may have no application to a particular member of th? Senate, may.be accepted as applying to particular senators. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council and also Senator Watson to refrain from making statements which invite recriminations and are not in the interests of good order.
– I will, in my own interests, obey your ruling.
– I bow, sir, to the ruling out of respect to you and the Chair. I know that I am speaking to men, many of whom have a longer parliamentary experience than mine, and I say that we need not here make too big an effort to dissemble what w? know to be the facts of the case. I submit to honorable senators opposite that they should ask themselves whether the attitude they are now taking up is an entirely fair and reasonable one. Dealing with Senator Watson’s case, I say that the Courts are open to the honorable senator. If he is turned from them as an unsatisfied suitor, or as a defendant whose case the Courts are not prepared to listen to, he and his friends may then claim some right to come here and ask for the creation of a special tribunal, but not until then. With regard to the Ready incident, which is also referred to in the motion, I can only repeat what has been said before, and what was stated in another place by the Prime Minister; that is, that if any one will undertake the responsibility of making a definite charge, whether he makes it inside or outside the Avails of this chamber, action will be taken corresponding to that taken in respect of the charges made by Senator Watson. If, as my honorable friends say, there is something wrong, why should they hesitate to adopt that course? The answer is obvious. They do not want a legal tribunal to interfere in the matter. They want to be free to make the charges, and free, also, from the consequences of doing so. That is a position which, I venture to say, must be repugnant to any fair-minded man, however useful it may be for the political purposes of honorable senators opposite. For these reasons I do not propose to support the motion, and I ask honorable senators generally, before doing so to study its terms. They are very crude and unconditioned, and would, in themselves, be an affirmation that something wrong exists. Senator Gardiner has not ventured, by a single word or line, to give any definiteness to the things he seeks to convey. I do not know of any more cowardly way of attacking a man than by innuendo and insinuation. Why will not honorable senators opposite take their courage in both hands, and make some definite statement? If they will not do that, I ask honorable senators to agree that until they do the Government are justified in their attitude of opposition to this motion.
– The request placed before the Senate is for the appointment of a Royal Commission on two grounds, one in connexion with something which was said by Senator Watson in this chamber affecting the Prime Minister. We can well remember when Senator Watson made his statement here. He appeared in the role of the injured innocent wandering abroad without any particular guide to save him from the pitfalls which surrounded him. He landed in this building one day and received some advice from the President. The honorable senator need not leave the chamber, as there is something I want to put to him.
– I have no desire to stay in order to receive insults from Senator Lynch.
– The honorable senator arrived in this building one day, and was specially invited by you, sir, to see you in your room. That constituted, in the opinion of Senator Watson, a very grave offence. Following upon that, he saw the Minister for Defence on the Treasury bench, according to his own statement, in order to discuss military matters. I do not know how Senator Watson fills in his time in the discharge of his public functions, or why he should find it necessary to go to see the Minister for Defence, to deal with so many military matters. I have, myself, occasion very often to deal with matters connected with the Department of the Minister for Defence, but most of our dealings are carried on by correspondence, and in no other way. It appears that Senator Watson, at least on two occasions, found it necessary to go and meet the tempter, Senator Pearce, on the Treasury bench to talk with him on matters of defence. Suddenly, while sitting close to Senator Pearce, Senator Watson appears to have become quite interested in his presence, and a conversation was opened which, on his ex parte statement, referred to Senator Watson’s position in the Senate. He afterwards saw the Prime Minister, according to .his own statement, in response to the invitation of the Prime Minister, which followed upon certain messages sent by the Minister for Defence to Senator Watson at Newcastle and elsewhere. I find, sir, that the motion completely. cuts out yourself and the Minister for Defence, and centres the whole burden of the guilt on one man, and one man alone, and that is the Prime Minister. If we turn to the statement made by Senator Watson in this chamber it- will clearly appear that he did not specially single out the Prime Minister as his target in any sense, but rather coupled all three gentlemen together. But for some reason or other still unexplained, the Leader of the Official Labour party here, as well as Senator Watson, has dropped yourself arid the Minister for Defence completely out of the matter, and made his one ground for asking for the appointment of the Royal Commission something or other which happened between Senator Watson and the Prime Minister. Why does not Senator Gardiner include you, sir, in the charge? Why does he shrink from the task of not including the Minister for Defence? If there has been nothing blameworthy on your part, sir, then I ask, why did Senator Watson, in the first place, attempt to drop here this bombshell which he is afraid to drop outside? He dare not put his nose outside the door and make the charges which he has made here. To get back -to the original words, I find that the statement of Senator Watson included a charge levelled against three public men in this country. He started off his grave charge in these words -
In view of the statement made by the President yesterday concerning the resignation of Senator Ready I feel impelled to make a statement to this honorable House and to the country concerning certain conversations that I have had with the President of the Senate, Senator Pearce, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes.
According to his statement it would seem that he had to wait until something happened to Senator Ready before his conscience was aroused to that extent that at last he must unburden it to the public, and show the world the temptations with which he had lately been assailed, and how his pure soul, so to speak, had been sullied by contact with these three men. Why did he wait for something to happen to Senator Ready before unburdening his soul here - the soul which he is not prepared to unburden outside the door of this chamber? It will be seen here, sir, that he was stung to action by reason of something which Senator Ready had done on the previous day, as announced by yourself. If you had not made that announcement, it can be assumed, with every justification, that Senator Watson would still be holding this thing which had been like a fire within his conscience. Instead of unburdening himself and showing how he had been tempted, he had to wait until something happened to Senator Ready to spur him to action. Senator Ready tendered his resignation, and therefore Senator Watson thought it was time that he, in his turn, should unfold to the Senate what he alleged happened with the President, Senator Pearce, and Mr. Hughes. He linked the conversations that took place between himself - according to his statement - and those three gentlemen as the basis of a charge levelled against the Government, and he continued -
I should have certainly regarded these mat ters as purely confidential and of a private character but for the suspicion that has been created in my mind that an act of political treachery has been perpetrated for the purpose of allowing the present Government to continue in office, and to defeat the people in their determination to prevent the conscription of manhood for compulsory military service abroad.
The honorable senator proceeded to build up a charge of political treachery. On what ground? On the ground that he had these conversations with the three gentlemen. But we find now that that particular part of the charge is watered down or narrowed to the extent that the President and the Minister for Defence pass as blameless, and the whole burden of the charge is centred on one man, and one man alone, and that is the Prime Minister. I want to know how it is that Senator Watson and his leader did not reconcile their differences, and still include in this plot the President, and the Minister for Defence.
– It is open to you to move an amendment to this motion.
– Honorable senators opposite have absolved two gentlemen and centred all their fury, vehemence, and spleen on the Prime Minister. If Senator Watson put three buttresses to his charge, and now he and his leader pull away two of them, the former has to account to the Senate for seeking, in the first place, to tarnish the reputation of the two gentlemen; and the latter has to justify his indorsement.
– Do you say that it is spleen to give the Prime Minister an opportunity to appear before a tribunal ?
– It is nothing but spite which is actuating the whole of the honorable senators on the other side. It is nothing but spite and spleen, and a form of malice, which make them pursue the Prime Minister - their former leader - in the unrelentless way they are doing. For twenty-five years he was their cherished leader - the man in whom they reposed the utmost confidence, and the one whose brain was always appealed to when they had a difficult puzzle to solve. They now call him a traitor, a liar, and every vile epithet which comes to their lips. He is suddenly found to be a traitor. On what ground? On the ground that every unit of a free Democracy must stand on, and that is the right to give expression to his thoughts, and hang the consequences. It is because Mr. Hughes stood up and insisted upon a free man’s right that he is the object of so much spite, malignity, and malice as is indulged in by the Official Labour party today. His crime to-day, as has been outlined here by Senator Watson, is that, in his own room, he said something or other to that honorable senator in conversation. Seeing that the Leader of the Opposition listened with interest, with patience, and, apparently, with encouragement, to Senator Watson, why does he now allow himself to leave the President out of the count, to also absolve the Minister for Defence from all blame and guilt, to give those two a clean sheet, when, on a previous occasion, Senator Watson sought to blacken them as much as any ex parte statement could do?
Accept this ex parte statement, and examine it in the light of the alleged act of corruption. I am going to say now what I will say on the public platform later. We know that a charge of corruption has been alleged freely. Indeed, we are living in a time when it would seem that the atmosphere is filled with nothing but distrust, suspicion, and jealousy of those who are in high places. I honestly hope that the public life of this country will not continue long to have this atmosphere. It reeks with suspicion and jealousy from honorable senators on the left-hand of the Chair. They have not a tittle of evidence to prove what they say. Furthermore, they will not accept the open challenge I gave here lately, namely, that if Senator Watson would release from the seal of confidence those with” whom he had the conversations on his position in the Chamber, I would vote for the appointment of a Royal Commission. Neither he nor his sponsor took up that challenge. They are cowards to their spinal marrow in acting as they are doing, when they dare not go outside the chamber and repeat the charge. There are the Law Courts of the country open to every man who has a grievance. He can go there and have his case for what it is worth tried according to the ethics of British justice, and by no other standard.
– Would the doctrine of privilege apply to an inquiry by a Royal Commission ? The honorable sena- tor might find himself hoist with his own petard.
– That may be quite true. However, let Senator Watson make the declaration which I asked for the other day, and I will vote for the appointment of the Royal Commission. Where is he now ? Where are the other men ? Let me repeat what I said, and we will strip to the bone these men.
– This is too tragic I
– We are familiar with the honorable senator’s broad smile, and we know what he is, too. But there is a balance of common sense, equity, and justice in this country that will see to it. The broad smile and the hearty, boastful laugh will not cover up the hypocrisy which lies beneath them. What we on this side look for is justice, and what we are going to do is to unmask the hypocrisy and the cowardice which clothe the members of the Official Labour party. They centre their venomous feeling on one man only, and that is their former leader and trusted friend. It is a long road that has no turning. The turning of this road is coming in sight. It is because we want to see this charge tried according to the standards of British justice that the offer has been made repeatedly from this side to honorable gentlemen opposite.
Now let me Bay a few words on the position of Senator Watson, even according to his own statement. We know that in the human relationship a person’s position can be easily defined without the use of words. We know, too, that the heart of Senator Watson has never been with the comrades in whose company he finds himself to-day. If we were disposed to break confidences, the same as honorable senators on the other side have done, we could make out a case which would stagger the people of this country, but particularly the members whom it affects.
– Why do you not do
– I am in the position of a defenceless householder who is being attacked by a murderous burglar. In dealing with men possessing a sense of honour and decency, unscrupulous men, who are foreign to both, have the advantage. When we are accused by these honorable senators in this cowards’ castle, without a tittle of proof or the semblance of a witness, I ask, why do they not make a definite charge here? Why do they in the vaguest language, demand the appointment of a Royal Commission without putting down in black and white and presenting to you. sir. a distinct, positive, and tangible charge against some member of this Chamber? It goes without saying, so far as Senator Watson is concerned, that he ought to be upon this side of the Chamber. His heart, his mind, his conscience, and his better judgment are here, but his body is over there, and we all know it.
But accepting his own statement that he was offered a bribe, I say that his mind, his inclination, and his . conscience are with the party on this side of the Senate, and that only his outer shape or personal form is with the party on the other side. Now, if as the result of transferring his body over here, with the spiritual part of him, he would be victimized by being deprived of work in Newcastle, I ask whether, according to all the ethics of morality, there would be any bribery in seeing that he did not starve ? I want to bring home to honorable senators opposite, how they, and how I, have acted in the past when we occupied a position in relation to that occupied by Senator Watson to-day. I have been in the firing line in industrial troubles a good deal. We have fought for what we believed we were entitled to by going on strike. But when persons were willing to accept the employment which we had left - persons who were called “ blacklegs “ and “ scabs “ - what happened? I have repeatedly endeavoured to persuade these men to give up their, positions and to make common cause with us. They were in sympathy with us, but stress of circumstances compelled them to accept work in opposition to us«. After we had brought them into our fold, and induced them to make common cause with us, we frequently gave them strike pay, paid their rents, and defrayed their expenses here and there. In fact, we gave them whatever our limited resources could afford, in order to keep them on the side of their conscience and with us. Was that bribery ? Could it be considered bribery in any sense of any canon of morality or fair play? Yet, according to honorable senators opposite, it was corruption, and nothing but corrup tion. Very few of them ever did anything in the matter of industrial fighting. Senator Turley laughs..
– That twenty-seven years of service on the honorable senator’s part gets on one’s nerves.
- Senator Turley has been in one strike - the strike of 1890 - and- has lived and travelled on it ever since. I question whether he paid his fees to the Seamen’s Union after he got into Parliament.
– I was paying fees before the honorable senator.
– And the honorable senator was receiving fees, too. He always took the line of least resistance, and we know it. The blacklegs in the past who have worked against us by reason of stress of circumstances, occupied an exactly similar position as Senator Watson occupies in this chamber. We know from conversations with him that he was never in sympathy with the party of which he is a member. If he was assured by Mr. Hughes - as he says he was - that if he joined the party to which his judgment and conscience led him, his wife and family would not be allowed to suffer as a result, in my opinion that was not bribery. If it was, the industrial movement with which I have been connected for many years, has been guilty of corruption and bribery over and over again, and gloried in it. That is the view of the case which I intend to present from every platform throughout this country. If Senator Watson was offered a bribe, in the sense that h’e says he was offered it, Mr. Hughes was thoroughly justified in his action, which was in keeping with the principles of natural justice, and Senator Gardiner dare not deny it. He has been through the industrial mill, as I have been, and he knows that when we gave the “ blacklegs “ food and clothing, paid their rents, or their passages to other places, we were only enabling them to live. I merely rose to point out that in this particular case the position has been narrowed down to a very fine one. The Minister for Defence and the President have now got a clean bill of health, so far as these charges are concerned. They are entirely blameless.
But the Leader of the Opposition in another place cannot escape responsibility f r>r his utterances. . He has declared that ex-Senator Ready was doped. The following is the record of the debate in another place -
Mr. Poynton. Does the honorable gentleman think we have no right to take exception to the very cruel statement which he made to day?
Mr. TUDOR. I believe that about the man.
– Is the honorable senator quoting from Hansard?
– I am quoting from a statement which the honorable senator can find for himself.
– The honorable senator is quoting from a Hansard proof, which is not a record of the House of Representatives.
– I am really not surprised at anything that is said by honorable senators opposite. It is deplorable that when I quote from the records of another place they can sink to the unspeakable level of saying that the records are not true.
– A Hansard proof is not a record of the House, and the honorable senator knows it.
– The report continues -
Mr. Poynton. You believe he was drugged?
Mr. TUDOR. Yes. I think he had been doped.
Sir John Forrest. Who by?
Mr. TUDOR. Let the honorable gentleman ask some of those on his own side.
There is a clear statement by Mr. Tudor in another place that members of this Senate doped or drugged ex-Senator Ready. There is his statement on the public records of the House-
– Give us the page so that we may see that it is so.
– When honorable senators opposite seek to make it appear that I am not quoting from the records of Parliament, I want to know where we are going to land?
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in saying that a certain statement appears in Hansard without indicating where it appears there? Further, is he in order in quoting from a debate during the present session?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Senator Lynch is quite in order.
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Lynch in order in repeating several times that he is quoting from a record of the House of Representatives, when it is not record of the House 1 I ask if a proof-slip of a member’s speech is a record of Parliament?
– Before you give a decision on that point, I would like to say that the statement to which exception has been taken by Senator O’Keefe is that the report quoted by Senator Lynch is a Hansard record. I wish to point out that it is a Hansard record, and that it appears in the latest number of Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I rule that Senator Lynch is in order.
– I again say, from the bottom of my heart, that this is the most melancholy spectacle I have ever witnessed. It is deplorable to think that, though we are here in the highest council of the nation, giving of our best, and voicing the opinions that are within us, when it comes to a statement which is in black and white, doubts are thrown upon our parliamentary records by honorable senators opposite. If they doubt these records here, what chance should we have when they get away into the country? It is evident that some of them have not a vestige of honour in their composition. They doubt the records of Parliament. Why, it is enough to make one’s blood boil to think of what we have suffered at the hands of these gentlemen in the past.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in quoting from a document and saying that it is a record of the House of Representatives? I hold that record in my hand, and, with your permission, I will read it, so that you may see that Senator Lynch is quite out of order, and is attempting to mislead the Senate.
– The honorable senator will doubt the Bible presently.
– I quote from page 11003 of Hansard, of 6th March, of the present year, which reads -
Mr. Poynton. And you allege that he was drugged ?
Mr. TUDOR. I said that in some countries people would say that.
Mr. Poynton. Why do you not make the statement straight out? Do not insinuate.
Mr. TUDOR. “ Insinuate ! “ Honorable members on the other side are the last persons on this earth who should talk about insinuations.
– There is something more than that.
– Then I will read on -
Fivedays before Senator Ready was taken ill in the dining-room, the Premier of Tasmania was wired for to go to New South Wales, and on Friday the Prime Minister said here, “ We heard.” He did not forget this incident, as he alleges he forgot the main question on which ho visited England. He told honorable members who voted for him to go to England to attend the Imperial Conference that the main thing on which he visited England last year was to get an extension of the life of this Parliament, and that in making his speech he forgot all about it.
– Quote what has some bearing on your point of order.
– Is the honorable senator in order in quoting a statement which he says is a record of the House, when the records of the House show that it is not?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT . - So far, the honorable senator has been in order. Until I find him out of order I cannot intervene.
– I was proceeding
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether a senator is in order in imputing to a member of another place a statement which he never made?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - So far, the honorable senator is in order.
– I set out by amplifying a statement made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and in doing so I was charged by honorable senators - if I may dignify them by calling them “ honorable “ senators - with quoting a record of the House of Representatives that was not true. I will begin again by quoting from page 11045 of the Hansard report of 6th March, 1917, when the Supply Bill (No. 5) was under consideration -
Mr. Poynton. , Does the honorable member think wo have no right to take exception to the very cruel statement which he made today?
Mr. TUDOR. I believe that about the man.
Mr. Poynton. , You believe that he was drugged ?
Mr. TUDOR. Yes; I believe he had been doped.
Sir John Forrest. Who by?
Mr. TUDOR. Let the honorable member ask some of those men on his own side.
– Every member of our party is charged by that insinuation.
– We have got down to the level that these gentlemen on the other side have charged us with the crime of drugging a member of their own side, or poisoning him, if you like, because when we administer drugs we do not know what the result will be. That is the level that the Official Labour party has come down to in this Parliament - their leader in the other Chamber saying what he did, and his followers in this denying it until it is rammed down their throats. Can they deny it now? They stand” like so many stuffed pigs’, condemned out of their own mouths, and not daring to contradict my quotation from the records of Parliament.
We have reached a deplorable level in the politics of this country, when the word of honorable senators is not believed. We are here on this side to-day because of the conduct of senators on your left, and the jealousy, suspicion, malice, and malignity evidenced by them from day to day, and week to week. That is their whole stockintrade. They have not a shred or vestige of honour in their composition. We underwent a refining process during the campaign on the conscription issue. Each of us on this side had a conscience, and knew that we should be less than men if we did not defend the free expression of thought. The men on the other side could see the chance of whips of scorpions coming down on their bare backs at the trades halls, and cowered into safety. When the test was applied, the gold passed to one side, and the dross to the other. The dross by the shovelful is on your left, the purer element is on this side, because we have fought for what we believed in. We have been put through the fire test, and have come out all gold. We could have remained on that side had we chosen to stifle thought and freedom of speech and conscience, which isthe cherished possession of every free man; but we said, “We shall preserve our conscience, and those head-hunters on your left can have their power of persecution.”
Talk about secrecy, honour, or confidence ! They went into a secret session upstairs. Did they keep the secrets they heard there ? There are members in that party on your left who made public everything they heard, and actually sought to build a case on the secrets they heard there, although they were on their honour to reveal nothing.
– And they made public some secrets that they did not hear !
– How can we associate with those men ? The gulf is so wide that no power or art of man can bridge it. On this side there is a solid foundation. There are men with independent minds prepared to go down with their flag still flying, and to retire into obscurity, if that is necessary; but, on that side, are the base time-servers, keeping their eye’s and consciences and minds glued on £600 a year, and on nothing else. “We have come here for a worthy purpose, and are going to remain. We shall pursue those gentlemen throughout the long and sinuous track that they will tread during the coming elections. We know we shall be seriously handicapped, because “ falsehood flies, while truth comes limping after,” and the truth will be furthest? from their standard during the campaign. According to the Leader of the Official Labour party, you, Mr. President, are as white as the driven snow on the mountain; you are not included in the grave impeachment that has been put forward, and even Senator Pearce is no longer the arch-conspirator that Senator Watson sought to make him out to be. You have passed without a stain on your character; but poor Mr. Hughes, the Leader of the party, is to be made the target for all their malice. Just as he has come out of the fiery furnace before, he will come out of this furnace again unscathed. I can only deplore the attitude of those men who followed him so long, and reposed so much confidence in him. They implored him to go round the .country to the State executives saying, “Save us; save us, for we perish!” Those highspirited gentlemen, when in Caucus assembled in this Parliament it was proposed that Mr. Hughes should go to the State executives, were like a lot of dumb-driven dogs. They uttered not a word of protest against Mr. Hughes’ proposition to go round and speak to the executives. They allowed him to go.
– They beseeched him to go.
– They implored him. Yet this man, whom they sent round to save them from destruction, is now placed in the pillory.
– He did not save you.
– I can save myself; I am not like the cowering human shapes on your left, who were so false and traitorous to their professions that they tore into ribbons the very Labour constitution they were elected to uphold.
– I do not think that matter arises.
– It takes a lot of high-explosive shell to make an impression on the thick skins of the party opposite. If I wander from the ordinary course of debate, it is - if they have any manliness left - because I want to make them feel their position, however small it is in these days. I can only deplore the spectacle of this party, once so powerful and capable of accomplishing so much, allowing itself to be riven asunder for want of a little more manhood and independence. Had they stood as men where the pioneers of the Labour movement stood before a number of them ever saw the movement, the party would never have split. They .came in when the soft billets were going. Had they done like you and me, Mr. President, there would have been no trouble ; but the unfortunate disruption of our party has been brought about by their flabbiness and willingness to say “Yes” to every demand made from outside, and their readiness to act like so many lackeys or orderlies obeying the commands of the Trades Hall. I will repeat the promise I made to Senator Watson, and extend it to those friends of his who are courting publicity, but who are afraid to put their cowardly noses outside the door of the Senate and repeat their remarks. They come here and pollute this chamber with their presence.
– The honorable senator’s remark is not in order.
– I withdraw the word “pollute.” Can I substitute “desecrate,” or “contaminate”? They have disgraced the professions they made to the people of this country when they came here, by hurling all sorts of innuendoes, charges, and insinuations, without being game to go out of either of those doors, or up on to the roof, where a man would get if he intended to stand by his principles and was determined to expose his opponents. If they had the courage or pluck of men in them, they would scramble over a pile of broken bottles, barefooted and barehanded, if necessary, to make the charges outside. They make them here, where they are safe; but we shall be on their tracks throughout this continent, and for every lie they tell-
– You will tell two.
– We shall be in the vicinity to put the right side of the case. I repeat the promise I made to Senator Watson, who still keeps out of the chamber when I am speaking. I repeat it to his five accomplices in those charges of corruption - that if they will promise on his behalf to relieve every person of th& seal of secrecy and confidence into which he asked them to enter in conversations about hi” position in the Senate, I will vote for a Royal Commission. Let them accept that challenge now.
– It is difficult to understand the attitude of the Opposition, in view of the present state of public business, and the possibility of an early dissolution, in asking for a Royal Commission of members of Parliament. We are about to enter into a general election, and honorable members will be too busy in the campaign to give any attention to a Royal Commission. That is one reason why the reference of the charges to a Royal Commission is practically impossible. The charges are of the party nature, and it is proposed by the Opposition to place them before a tribunal consisting of members of both sides.
– No; before a High Court Judge.
– Then, if the Opposition are willing to submit them to a High Court Judge as a Royal Commission, how can they take exception to Mr. Hughes desiring to get before a High Court Judge in a much, quicker way?
– And a special jury in that case.
– If you favour a High Court Judge investigating the charges’ in Court, why do you object to a High Court Judge sitting as a Royal Commission ?
– Because the Royal Commission method does not provide for punishment for the guilty party. I am in favour of the course adopted by Mr. Hughes, Because that was the original proposition to deal with this matter, and because I know something of the political parties directly interested. I admire Mr. Hughes for the promptitude with which he has acted with the idea of having the charges investigated as soon as possible, and I have my suspicions as to the honesty of the demand in this chamber for the appointment of a Royal Commission. From what happened this afternoon we can see how much reliance can be placed upon the words of some honorable gentlemen opposite, for we have heard them raising points of order in regard to statements that are in black and white in Hansard. They declared that Senator Lynch was quoting statements not to be found in Hansard, and only ceased their objections when they were given the page for the authority of Senator Lynch’s statement. The charges are of the most serious kind I have heard during the sixteen years I have been a member of this Senate, but we knew it was likely they would come along. We have heard the vulgar and extravagant abuse that had been showered upon the Prime Minister long before this split in the party occurred, and it surprised no one, therefore, when the. split did occur, that charges like these were made. But who is Senator Watson who makes these charges? What reliance can be placed upon his word ? What standing has he in this Parliament or out of it that warrants his word being listened to for five minutes ? What record has he in the Labour movement? Has he been known in connexion with the Labour movement for any length of time? I dare say that ninetenths of the members of this Parliament connected with the party he is identified with had never heard Senator Watson’s name mentioned in the political movement until he entered this chamber as one of .the senators from New South Wales. I have known that gentleman’s family for the last quarter of a century, and I have never heard of Senator Watson being connected with the Labour movement in all these years. This, then, is the man who came forward and made charges against three of the oldest and most highly respected members of the party, men who were elected unanimously to the positions they occupy to-day. I mention first the Leader of the party, Mr. Hughes, who was elected unanimously by the votes of the Watsons, the Gardiners, and the rest of them. They had then so much faith in him that they did not put up an opponent against him. We all know that Mr. Hughes, although he may not have occupied that position all the time, has been the real Leader of the Labour party for the last decade. No man has done so much for the party; and when Mr. Fisher retired Mr. Hughes was elected to the position as a natural step in his career. This is the man against whom such grave charges have now been made by Senator Watson. Next in order I might mention Senator Pearce, who has occupied the position of Minister for Defence ever since we had an opportunity of electing a man to the Cabinet. Personally, I know how much reliance I can place upon Senator Pearce’s word. I would take his word before that of a hundred thousand Senator Watsons, or men of his type. Senator Givens has also shown his earnestness in connexion with these charges. He is not trying to shirk any investigation. It is cruel that Senator Watson should make a “ coward’s castle ‘ ‘ of the Senate by levelling charges here against these men, and not having the manliness to go outside. The Age newspaper might just as well plead privilege in connexion with these allegations because that newspaper simply recorded what I suppose the writer thought the charges were, while Senator Watson, the originator, can get out of his responsibility - or he thinks he can - by saying that his charges were made in the Senate. It is a rather one-sided arrangement that people outside, who may have a very secondary responsibility, should have to face the Courts of the community, while the originator evades his responsibility. Honorable gentlemen opposite are evidently desirous of making the Senate a place where they may have licence to speak and say just what they like. ,No matter if the charges have not the slightest foundation - honorable gentlemen apparently feel they are privileged to repeat here any allegations about bribery and corruption, with no one to interfere with them. It is nearly time that, our Standing Orders were revised. During the whole time that I have been in this Chamber, I have never said against any man anything that I would not be prepared to repeat outside. The man who seeks to make the Senate a “coward’s castle” is a disgrace to the Senate.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not allude to any member of the Senate in those terms.
– I am merely pointing out that if charges are made here, and the senator responsible for them declines to repeat them outside, he is un- worthy of a seat in this Chamber, and his action will drag the Senate down to the lowest depths of contempt in the eyes of the public. I hold, therefore, that we should not agree to any other course of action than that which the gentlemen directly concerned have already, taken to free their character of the allegations made. It ill becomes any body of men to step in now and endeavour to prevent the course of justice from being- followed. We have very good reason to believe, however, that the gentlemen opposite are beginning to feel not quite so sure as they were a few days ago. Ex-Senator Ready’s statement, which appeared in the press this morning, puts a very different complexion on the whole position. Charges were made against members on this side of “doping” Senator Ready; but if any doping was done, or mental chloroform applied that, apparently, took place at the Caucus meeting, about which we are now learning something. We want, if possible, to have the curtain raised on the proceedings of Caucus on that occasion. We’ know now that the charges are beginning to disappear. They have been narrowed down until they concern only one member of the Government. In the face of all this, how can we have any confidence in anything which Senator Watson says? Only a few days ago, in a most sweeping manner, he made charges against three members on this side; but now, by withdrawing the charges against two of them, the honorable senator admits, practically, that only 33 per cent, of his charges were true. The ground is slipping from under his feet, and evidently he realizes that fact. They say they want a Royal Commission. I do not believe it. All they want is to humbug the question, and drag it on until the general elections. Then all this hubbub will be brought forward, and they will really have prevented an investigation info the charge. That is what they are endeavouring to do by this motion. As Senator Watson has already withdrawn 66 per cent, of his charges, what guarantee have we that he will not withdraw the remainder ? I feel sure that, when the case is brought before the Court, and an opportunity is given for the crossexamination of the honorable senator on the sole charge now remaining, he will say something different from what he has said here. That is only a reasonable conclusion to draw from the fact that he has already run away from two out of the three charges he has made. Now we are faced with this humbugging motion to refer the charges to a tribunal, in the hope that the general election will have come and gone before any decision is arrived at, and honorable senators opposite will, in the meantime, have secured all the votes likely to be influenced by the making of these charges. I shall be no party to that kind of thing, and I hope the Senate will not be a party to it. The matter is now before a Court of the country, where it can be dealt with in the speediest and most reasonable way, and I hope that the Senate will not interfere with the decision of the matter by the Court.
– Our friends of the Opposition are very prolific in charges and sensations.. No sooner does one statement they make lose its sensational character, by being whittled away, than another is discovered. First of all we had Senator Watson; later the charges about Senator Ready’s resignation ; and then we had the Leader of the party opposite saying that Senator Ready had been doped. If we are to have a Royal Commission to inquire into these matters, why not appoint one to clear up the whole business? I remind Senator Gardiner that be has not included the “ doping “ charge in the matters to be referred to the proposed Royal Commission. Why has he not done so?
– What is doping?
- Senator Guthrie may be more familiar with racing terms than I am, but I have been informed by gentlemen who frequent the race-course that the term is well-known to racing men as meaning that a horse has been given some drug to put him out of action. The insinuation is that some on© gave Senator Ready some drug to put him out of action.
– Some member of the party on the Ministerial side.
– I direct attention to the fact that this is the most serious charge which has yet been made. It is almost equivalent to a charge of murder, because it is a well-known fact that an overdose of a drug that will bring about insensibility will result in death. Are we to have a separate Royal Commission appointed to investigate the .charge of doping? Are honorable senators opposite afraid that their stock of sensations may not last until the election? Are they afraid that if they bring forward all their sensations together their material will be exhausted before the elections tak© place, Are they keeping the doping charge until Senator Watson’s vague generalities are disposed of, and the insinuations, which no one on the other side will father, concerning Senator Ready hav© also been dealt with ? Nothing definite is said by honorable senators on the other side with respect to the resignation of Senator Ready. They tell us only what some one else is supposed to have said or what they have heard down th© street. After these matters have been inquired into, I suppose that the doping charge will be made the subject of another motion of privilege, another suspension of the Standing Orders, and another Royal Commission to inquire into this new sensation. When that is disposed of I suppose honorable senators opposite will have something else to put before the people, and that they will run the gauntlet of charges from thieving to highway murder in th© endeavour to provide sufficient sensation for the general election. Honorable senators opposite will find their forebears in French history. If we read the history of the French Revolution we shall find that prior to that event the people were seduced into a state of wild agitation by the constant dissemination of rumours, slanders, and the basest insinuations against everybody in authority. Honorable senators opposite have apparently studied the history of the French Revolution, and are following similar tactics. They are throwing out vile slanders against anybody and everybody occupying some sort of position, especially in connexion with the present Government, in the hope that they may be able to create an agitation. In th© French Revolution those tactics succeeded, but the authors of the slanders eventually found their way to the guillotine to which they had drawn those whom they slandered. It must not be forgotten that our honorable friends opposite make their appeal to a better educated people than those addressed by the slanderers of the period of the French Revolution. Our people of to-day will not be misled, and will not be diverted from the facts which must be considered at) th© general election, by all this dirt-throwing and mudslinging from the other side. I propose to put a proposition before honorable senators to test their sincerity and their manliness. I want to discover whether they are game to come out from behind the hedge. I want to know whether they have the courage to take up these charges. I, therefore, move as an amendment to the motion -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ provided a member of the Commonwealth Parliament will accept the responsibility of making a definite charge against some other member or members of the Parliament.”
The motion would then continue in its present form providing for a Royal Commission to inquire into the charge. That is a fair challenge. If honorable senators opposite believe that they have any evidence to support the charges that have been made, let them take their courage in their hands and accept the amendment.
– Where does the Minister want them to make their charge?
– Wherever they like - either here or outside.
– There is no hope that they will make it outside.
– My amendment will, at any rate, test their sincerity, and will show whether they believe in these charges themselves. We know that they do not believe in them. We know that they are only so much political windowdressing for the elections, and so much bluster and humbug. Is there one man on the other side who will have the courage, or, shall I say, the decency, either to voice a definite charge or else to remain silent? Will honorable senators opposite, on the other hand, continue to skulk behind the hedge, to whisper gossip, and to invent slanders ? This amendment will let the public know how much sincerity there is in the making of these charges. Honorable senators opposite have already had the opportunity of accepting responsibility. We know that Senator Watson made certain charges here.
– Statements, not charges.
– That is so. They were statements, not charges.
– He made one statement which was a charge.
– Yes, and only one, and he afterwards qualified that. I quote Senator Watson’s own words. He said -
Did I not say that these gentlemen spoke to me as advisers and friends, trying to advise me as to the best course in ‘ my own interest. I said these words concerning each of the three.. Each was seeking to advise me as a friend.
Is that a charge ? Is it a crime to advise a man as a friend ? Senator Watson said that Mr. Hughes advised him as a friend. He has made a statement to the effect that Mr. Hughes said that if any monetary difficulty stood in the way it could be overcome. The honorable senator regarded that as advice coming from a friend, and not as a bribe. The Prime Minister denies that he made any such statement. ‘Senator Watson has now an opportunity of proving his charge if he makes it as a charge. All he has to do is to say to that firm of solicitors in Collinsstreet, “ I do not plead privilege. I am prepared to take the responsibility of my statement in Parliament. I shall not plead privilege,” and there before a Court of this country, with a jury or without a jury, as Senator Watson pleases, I understand, the case can be heard on sworn evidence. The honorable senator can give his evidence, and any other evidence he has, on oath, and Mr. Hughes can meet that evidence in the same way. This is what will happen. Should Senator Watson fail to substantiate his charges he will be punished as he ought to be, because he has slandered the Prime Minister of Australia. If, on the other hand, he should substantiate his charges, he will drive from the public life of this country for ever the Prime Minister. Here is a fair and equal battle-ground, where each man will take his responsibility. Each man will stand equal before the law, and will suffer should he fail to establish his charges. What is the course which our honorable friends on the other side desire? They want the Prime Minister’s political existence, his fair name and character, put in the scale. On the other hand what do they desire ? Do they want their name and character, their political existence, put in the scale? They want nothing of the kind. Not one of them will suffer. If the result of an inquiry by a Royal Commission is that the Prime Minister is innocent, none of them is to suffer. None of those who hurled these charges throughout the length and breadth of this country, who defamed this man, who tried to take away from him what is dearer to him than his purse, his good name, is to endure a pennyworth of suffering. The Prime Minister is to take all the risk and all the possibility of punishment, but every one of his accusers is to be free. Is that justice, is that fair and equal ? Is that what appeals to our honorable friends on the Opposition side as a manly course to follow ? The Prime Minister has said that if Senator Watson will make his charges outside he will proceed to deal with them. He’ has already proceeded to deal with the charges. He has said that if any honorable senator, if any member of Parliament, will make, in connexion with the resignation of Senator Ready, any charges of improper conduct on his part, of corruption or of bribery, he will give them an opportunity of proving the charges in the Courts of the land. Not one of them has accepted that challenge. If they have a case why should they hesitate to act? It is because they have no case that they hesitate. They will not take the responsibility of meeting the Prime Minister where they would meet on equal terms. No; they come to Parliament and say, “ Appoint a Royal Commission.” But even then they make no charges. They demand a Royal Commission - to investigate what ? The circumstances connected with the retirement of Senator Ready. There is no suggestion of a charge, even in the motion itself.
– Has not Mr. Hughes issued a writ?
– Yes, against Senator Watson.
– It must have been issued on some ground sufficiently serious to justify the appointment of a Royal Commission.
– The Prime Minister did not issue the writ on a frivolous ground. He issued the writ to drag the honorable senator’s comrade from behind the walls of Parliament, and the comrade has sheltered himself behind the plea of privilege. He has not the courage to say outside of Parliament what he has said inside. The meanness and the contemptibleness to say inside-
– Why are you afraid of a Royal Commission?
– Why are you afraid of a Court? That is the reply to the interjection. I am not afraid of a Royal Commission, but I do not see why I should have to spend my money to defend my character against the honorable senator’s slanders, unless, should I succeed, he is to be punished for having tried to Cake it away.
– A Royal Commission will do that.
– What does the honorable senator desire ? He wants a Royal Commission - why? In order that, behind the walls of Parliament, he may slander me.
– If a Royal Commission cleared my character, where would I be? I would be where I was before it sat. I would be declared innocent; but what about Senator McKissock, who made the charge ? He would rise in Parliament, and say, “ I am sorry to find, as a result of the inquiry by the Royal Commission, that I was misinformed.” Or, as Senator Millen has reminded me, what is more probable is that Senator McKissock would come in and say that the Royal Commission was “ doped.”
– You do not refer criminal charges to a Royal Commission.
– Let our honorable friends on the opposite side pluck up their courage. For over a fortnight they have had a challenge to go outside and say what they have said inside. Not one of them has availed himself of the offer in either House. They come along and take advantage of a chance majority to move for the appointment of a Royal Commission. Now we say to them, “Make your charges.” Our amendment defines the terms on which they can have a Royal Commission. Let us see whether they will accept the offer.
– I certainly think that the Leader of the Offical Labour party ought to be here, to listen to a proposal of this kind, and either accept or reject it.
– His mind was made up long ago.
– There is a kind of fish which is noted for squirting out a lot of black fluid when it is in danger, and disappearing. That is typical of our honorable friends on the opposite side. I suggest that they might have a Royal Commission to investigate the statement of Mr. Tudor that Senator Ready was “ doped “ at Parliament House. It is pretty clear that only certain persons could have doped him. It might have been the waiter, or the cook, or the gentlemen who were having lunch with him. If we are to have a Royal Commission on this matter at a later period, it is well that, at the earliest possible opportunity, we should make it quite clear who was sitting with Senator Ready at luncheon when, according to Mr. Tudor, he was doped. I am informed on reliable authority that the two gentlemen who were lunching with Senator Ready were Senator Stewart and Mr. Frank Anstey. A little while ago we had the Leader of the Official Labour party here referring to his suspicion that certain honorable senators were “ in the bag.” Seeing that two members of that party were present with Senator Ready when, according to Mr. Tudor, he was doped, I suggest that our honorable friends should have another Caucus meeting and decide whether they should ask for the appointment of a Royal Commission on this matter, or whether they should follow the same course as they took with Senator Watson, and that is to apply the third degree to Senator Stewart and Mr. Anstey, and see if they can extract some interesting statements from them. I shall be disappointed indeed if Senator Stewart is not in his place to-morrow to read a typewritten statement which will set out every feature of this horrible crime of doping, or will own up. If he does not rise in his place to-morrow, I can only surmise that, in view of the leakage of information from the room outside which has been going on for some time past, our honorable friends are becoming too timid to apply the third degree continuously in these cases. I shall wait with interest to see what happens to-morrow. I submit the amendment in order that we may see whether our honorable friends opposite have the courage which becomes a man - the courage to put forward a definite charge.
– - I have looked very carefully through the so-called charges made by Senator Watson. I listened to the charges as he read them, and the literary preparation was too transparent altogether for a man who really felt that the circumstances he was narrating were sufficient to warrant so serious a statement. The very style of the statement indicated a great deal of preparation and care, and a choice of words which are not generally used by Senator Watson. It indicated either that he had the assistance of somebody in preparing the charges, or that, in his own mind, there was not a tittle of evidence in support of the charges he read. Let us examine the statement. On the kind invitation of the President, he had a conversation on ordinary matters. There cropped up then, and quite naturally, the question of Senator Watson’s position - a position which, I venture to say, has not been hidden from many persons in this Parliament, a position which he feels acutely.
– Those who have been members of ‘the Labour party ought to know more about it than we do. I am sure that I knew nothing about it.
– Senator Watson is not prepared to answer the challenge thrown out by Senator Lynch, and release individuals from an honorable secrecy. The conversation held on that occasion involves nothing in itself. If these cases have a serious aspect, they should bear dissection. The interview with the President should carry with it the same amount of crime as the last interview with the Prime Minister; but does it? The statement contains no charge of either bribery or corruption against the President in such-and-such words. If there is any strength in the statement from Senator Watson’s point of view, he has to prove collusion between the President and the persons whom he cited as witnesses.
– He made practically the same charges against them.
– But he has dropped them.
– His case against the President can only stand if the whole three stand. It cannot stand alone. It cannot stand on the conversation with the President. It cannot stand on the two conversations which he says he had with the Minister for Defence. There was not a tittle of evidence in either of them.
– Would the honorable senator prefer to have them included ?
– My honorable friend is not prepared to advise Senator Watson to include them.
– The honorable senator does not know what I am prepared to advise.
– I repeat that Senator Mullan is not prepared to give that advice. Senator Watson included them, and he did so in the first instance for the express purpose of inferentially throwing on the Minister for Defence and the President the same share of blame that he seeks to throw on the Prime Minister himself. There was nothing in “the conversation which he had with the Minister for Defence - nothing but what any honorable senator opposite might have said to any other honorable senator regarding the position which he occupied. From what fell from the lips of certain honorable senators during the debate on conscription, it must be patent that some honorable senators acted under a sense of compulsion. They were not anti-conscriptionists by conviction, but merely by the force of circumstances over which they had no control. I have looked carefully through the charges made by Senator Watson, and I find in them a clear determination on his part and on the part of those who acted in collusion with him - because I have not the shadow of a doubt that more than one person had a hand in framing them - to wreck the Prime Minister and his Government. I am sorry that Senator Watson did not make his statement on the night that he rose to do so in the Senate, when he would have spoken with only a bare note. In such circumstances we should probably have had from him an admission similar to that which he made to Senator Millen, namely, that each of the individuals who interviewed him were regarded by him as his friends, and were advising him as friends. Yet, when he put the three individuals together at somebody’s instigation, their conversations are magnified into a charge. Assuming that he had a conversation with the Prime Minister similar to that which he had with the Minister for Defence, was there anything in it in the nature of corruption ? Nothing but a jaundiced eye could see it. Nothing but a mind which was determined to find crime in it could do so. We all know that suspicion always haunts the guilty mind, and that when people are determined to arrive at a certain position they will move heaven and earth to get it. This is a trumped-up charge and nothing else, because Senator Watson himself admits that there was no suspicion attaching to the interviews he had had until something else happened. I say that if there were any attempt at bribery or corruption it would not be dependent upon the action of any other person. It would not become bribery or corruption because of a subsequent conversation or because of a senator’s resignation. It would not become corruption because a certain individual left Tasmania hurriedly for Sydney.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Since the suspension of the sitting I have instituted a com parison between the typewritten statement read by Senator Watson in this chamber and the oral statement which he subsequently made here. I find that they are very dissimilar in character. If they were eliminated from Hansard, and were run connectedly together, I venture to say that no person with any knowledge of literary composition would believe that they were the product of the same man. If I were inclined to be suspicious I should say that they were not the product of the same individual, and that the first statement had been carefully prepared for a special occasion. I am strengthened in that conviction by an interjection which was made during the course of the discussion, to the effect that if the matter in question had been brought up earlier it would have spoiled everything. In his second address to this Chamber, Senator Watson, in reply to an interjection by Senator Millen, absolutely withdrew his charge so far as it related to the President and the Minister for Defence. Yet, on his bald statement we are now invited to appoint a Royal Commission. Honorable senators opposite frequently affirm that Parliament should economize. Yet they now propose an inquiry by a Royal Commission, which would involve the country in a considerable expenditure. The charges made by Senator Watson bear upon their face evidence of distinct malice against the Prime Minister. When the honorable senator rose to speak on this question on the second occasion, he was at particular pains to exonerate the President from all blame. He admitted, also, that Senator Pearce was his friend. He acknowledged that these gentlemen were regarded by him as friends, and that they were giving him good advice as friends. If I believed that a man was offering me a bribe to take a certain step contrary to my conscientious convictions, would I regard him henceforth as my friend! Would I wait for ten days before bringing the incident forward - wait till something else happened which had no connexion with his action ? We all recollect when Senator Ready resigned. When the announcement of his resignation was made to the Senate I could not help feeling how slight was the bond of friendship between honorable senators opposite. Without any justification, and without any evidence, those honorable senators who had held Senator Ready by the hand, and who had recognised him as their friend, at once gave utterance to sentiments which showed the depth to which they had sunk. Those utterances are recorded in Hansard, and they go to show that their professed friendship is only skin deep. I come now to the charge which they made, that Senator Ready was “ doped,” and doped by somebody on this side of the Senate. I was present in the dining-room when Senator Ready was taken ill. I happened to be sitting at the table with him. Perhaps honorable senators opposite will say that I doped him.
– Who else was at the table?
– I believe that the President was there, and that he was the first to offer the honorable senator some measure of relief. I believe the President undid his collar for him. This was after the alleged doping had taken place. Senator Ready was one of the most highlystrung and nervous men in the Senate. After hearing that he fainted away when the announcement was made that he had been elected to the Senate, I can quite understand that after the excitement he had been undergoing lately a collapse would occur, without any necessity for doping. Judging by their silence, honorable senators opposite are prepared to indorse the suggestion of their leader. What a depth of infamy they must have sunk to if they can believe that those with whom they were friendly for so long would commit such a dastardly act. When the leader of a party will sink to. the depth of saying, without any proof or evidence, that some one on this side doped Senator Ready, it shows that the suggestion comes from his own mind. There was no possibility of those he spoke of having been anywhere near Senator Ready, and Senator ‘ Keating has also stated that a similar occurrence took place on the vessel, when none of those on this side could have been present. The whole thing shows to what tremendous lengths malice will go. Senator Watson’s later statement practically frees the President and Senator Pearce from blame, and narrows the issue down to the conversations between himself and the Prime Minister. Senator Watson’s convictions were known, the workings of his conscience were known, and his state of mind was known. He said he could not live in Newcastle if he did certain things, showing that what was troubling his mind was not the doing of the things, but the living in Newcastle afterwards. He was seeking for a way of escape, and when it was shown that there was a possibility of retaining his honour, and following his conscientious convictions, while escaping the injury that might be done to him by some evilly-disposed persons, he came into the Senate, and regarded the offer as bribery and corruption, and detrimental to the fair fame of the Senate. The evil is in the minds of the individuals making the charges, and not in the words used by the Prime Minister. The charge is but a reflection of what is in the minds of those who made the statements. No two men read the same book alike; each one reads a part of himself into it. My honorable friends who are so ready with their accusations are reading their own minds into what occurred, and not the mind of the Prime Minister, or even of Senator Watson at the time, for it took almost as long as it takes to incubate a chicken for Senator Watson to recognise that there was anything foul in the offer. He cogitated and ruminated over it for several days, and then something happened which had really no relation to it, but in which he began to see, or fancied he saw, something sinister, evil, and corrupt. When he realized that, he felt how strong a man he had been. He thought he had been through temptation. He imagined that he had been tried by the devil himself, and had come out the conqueror, because in his second utterance he gloried in the fact that his conscience was uncorrupted. I do not think there was the slightest intention on the part of the Prime Minister to do anything but to point out the way the honorable senator could be true to himself, to his convictions, and to his own brave lads fighting at the front. Senator Watson had every reason to mention his lads with pride, but his position on the opposite side of the chamber is very queer and hard to understand. I can see how, judged and condemned by his own conscience, he has been seeking a way of escape. If he thought there was aught of evil in it, why did he seek converse with Senator Pearce more than once? Why did he not cut off negotiations at once, instead of seeking an interview with the Prime Minister? Why did he wait so long to see him, if he were so fearful that a bribe would be offered to him? If it was a temptation to such as he, he walked in to the very place where the temptation would be strongest. His proper course was to avoid the way of temptation, but he did not shun it, nor did he speak of it till Senator Ready resigned. There was nothing sinister in that resignation. Senator Ready had failing health, and had a wife and family dependent on him. He recognised the intense strain that was cast on him here, and knew that the continuance of it in all probability meant shortening his life. He weighed the matter carefully, as the statement he made to-day shows, and he had a right to resign. If he chose to adopt that course, who shall say him nay ? But who is to connect his resignation with something that was in all probability unknown to him, in order to manufacture a serious charge ? The whole tiling, on examination, is shown to be .only a tissue of make-believe, for the purpose of creating political capital to use at the coming elections. Honorable senators opposite are like Macawber, waiting for something to turn up. The evil is nob on the part of the Prime Minister, the President, or Senator Pearce, but is only in the minds of those who invented it. It reveals to the public what they are thinking, and the depths to which they have sunk. It does not show, as they would like to make out, criminality on the part of the Prime Minister. No Royal Commission should be appointed unless there is some really serious issue to try, which cannot be resolved by any other method. The Courts of law are open to try such matters as this. Senator Watson has been challenged to take that course, which is open to him as an honorable man. If honorable senators opposite believe that he is in the right, they will back him up in taking his case to a Court. If they do not believe ito, they will try to shelter themselves behind a Royal Commission. If it is anything more than theatrical display and electioneering, they will immediately say, “ Senator Watson shall not lose by this. We will stand behind him, and prove in Court that the charge he is making is well grounded.” If they are true mates, that is what they will do. They are not going the right way now to prove that they believe what they say. They want a Royal Commission, where all the damage that can be done will be done to one individual, and the other party will not run an equal risk.
– Would you not trust a J udge 1
– The honorable senator and those with him do not trust the J Judges, or they would appeal to them. They are asking us to change the venue from the place where such things are tried to one where they are not usually tried. The honorable senator cannot point to a single other case of slander investigated by a Royal Commission. Why should the country be put to the cost of testing the matter when it lies simply between those who have made a charge and the individual charged ?
– We want an investigation, and you deny it.
– We have pointed out where it can be held. Senator Watson would get the same fair play as the Prime Minister in the Court. He and his friends shrink from the ordeal because they recognise that in an open Court the man making the charge would be crossexamined, and might immediately break down. They fear the result of that breakdown to them. There was nothing sinister about the remarks made by Mr. Hughes. They can be interpreted as nothing other than a friendly desire to stand by a man. It would be unworthy of him, and totally unlike him, if he had not offered to stand by a fellow man in the face of the contumely that would have been hurled upon him had he changed sides. While we were taking counsel with honorable senators on the other side, it was, ‘of course, a case of “ Hail fellow, well met.” We were trusted then, but directly we followed our own consciences we became “ rats “ and “ renegades.” to use the expressions employed by the Leader of the Opposition. That is what we have had to endure, and that is what Senator Watson would have had to endure.
– If he had “ ratted.”
– He would have been called a renegade.
– If he had proved a renegade.
– If he had followed his conscience rather than selfinterest.
– You have a decent way out, and that is resign your seats.
– We are about to appeal to the people, and I feel sure they will recognise the men who have not been afraid to stand for their country rather than for their own self-interest. I am not afraid, and I arn not sheltered by a three years’ longer term like my honorable friend. Honorable senators on the other side have been talking of the good work that has been done by the United Labour party, but if the share done by honorable senators on this side of ‘the Senate had been abstracted, honorable senators opposite would not have been able to carry that legislation. We do not pose as the only righteous and the only wise men, but we do object when, having taken a manly and courageous course, we are now pointed to and described as “ rats “ and “ renegades.” On what have we “ratted?” Never on our pledges; never on our platform; and never on any principle. Because we have done what we believed to be right, we are condemned. Now, however, we are appealing to a higher tribunal - the people of this country - upon whose verdict we shall rest. In Senator Watson’s second statement to the Senate he was careful to show that, so far as the President is concerned, there was nothing in his conversation except friendly advice, and from Senator Pearce and Mr. Hughes he had nothing but the advice of a friend. But it is evident that such pressure was brought to bear upon him that he was compelled, rather reluctantly it seems to me, to read some other meaning into the words of the Prime Minister, and his narrative to the Senate in this “respect is unlike his own manner of writing and speaking. Right through the whole thing seems to me to be nothing but posturing, theatrical display, and bravado. Members of the Opposition say, “ Give us a Commission.” Why? They know that they will then have all the advantages to be gained by such a course, and will be free from any of the penalties that would follow such utterances and charges if tried in some other way. One of two things is clear. Either they believe that a Court to which an appeal is to be made is unjust, or that the charges are trumpery. Do they doubt that they will get justice? Will they charge the Judge, before whom the trial is to be held, with failing to give evenhanded justice? They must say that in effect, or else admit that the charge is a trumpery one, and if we have descended to such depths as this, it is about time we did appeal to the people to let them judge of that which is true and good. Let us, however, eliminate from our electioneering campaign any reference to these matters at all. Let the charges made by Senator Watson be tried before an impartial Judge and jury of his own countrymen. Let Senator Watson stand there and be cross-examined as any other man would be, and if he . fails to substantiate his charges, it is only right that he should pay the penalty which every other man who makes charges against his fellow countrymen, without having the slightest foundation, has had to pay.
– I do not intend to take up the time of the Senate for very long, but there are one or two points to which I desire to direct careful attention. One of the reasons why we are debating this motion to-night’ is that the Opposition, finding themselves with a majority, are able to force this motion on, irrespective of our Standing Orders. I direct particular attention to that point, because it shows that, if the party occupying the Opposition benches were in power throughout the country, they would be in favour of direct action straight-away. The Leader of the Opposition has been trying during the past fortnight to impress upon the Senate that his great desire is to see the prestige of this Chamber retained. But what happened to-day ? This motion is not in respect of a matter of urgency, because it has been before the Senate for a fortnight, and, moreover, it is not a matter that could have been brought up under our Standing Orders to-day. No member who takes any interest in the Standing Orders as interpreted by Mr. President could say he would be justified in voting on the motion this afternoon. Now, what is the object of the motion ? Honorable senators opposite say, “ Give us a Royal Commission.” That has become a stereotyped cry among honorable senators opposite. To them the cry is like that blessed word “Mesopotamia.” If Senator Watson or any other honorable senator will bring a direct charge against any honorable member of this Parliament, I will stand behind him, and help to carry the matter to an issue. Have we had a direct charge against any honorable member of this Parliament 1
– I think one.
– A statement was made in the Senate a few days ago, but two-thirds of it has already been withdrawn.
– It must have been a charge, because a. writ has been issued as the result.
– Well, writs are issued sometimes for very small things, and if the honorable senator who has interjected will make a direct charge, and is prepared to substantiate it in this chamber or outside, I will vote for anything he likes, for a Royal Commission or an action at law. Senator Lynch also issued a challenge to members on the other side this afternoon, when he invited them to release other honorable senators who were in conference over this matter from the bond of secrecy. He promised, if they would do that, he, too, would vote for a Royal Commission. If Senator Watson will make his statement into a charge against the Prime Minister, and it is heard before a Judge, one of two things must happen. Either the Prime Minister of Australia must be hounded out of politics for all time, or Senator Watson must go out. That could not happen as a result of a trial by a Royal Commission. Honorable senators opposite want, not a Royal Commission, but a fishing inquiry to whitewash a member of their own party. In this matter either Senator Watson or the Prime Minister, if found guilty, should be punished; but the appointment of a Royal Commission would end in the presentation of a report, and no punishment would follow the person shown to be guilty. If it is believed by honorable senators opposite that the statements made are only half as grave as they say they are, they should be prepared to make a definite charge in respect of them, and to permit it to he investigated by a Court, which will be able to visit the offender with condign punishment. Do not honorable senators think that in this matter punishment should be meted out to either the Prime Minister or Senator Watson? They will not answer the question, and we can get nothing out of them.
– Interjections are disorderly.
– We cannot get an expression of opinion from them since they were dished by the matter quoted from Hansard only a little while ago. If Senator Watson’s statements can be substantiated, the Prime Minister should be put out of his position; and if they cannot be substantiated, Senator Watson should be put out of the Senate. I cannot conceive of anything much worse than an attempt to steal the good name of any man. Shakspeare says -
Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands ;
But he that filches from me my good name: Bobs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.
The only way to have merited punishment meted out to the guilty person in this matter is for some member of the Senate to make a direct charge, and have it investigated in a Law Court, which is the proper place for the trial of a charge of thu kind. Honorable senators opposite will not take that course, but prefer to ask the Senate to appoint a Royal Commission.
– I do not think the Senate can directly appoint any Commission. It can only carry a motion affirming that the appointment of a Commission is desirable.
– I believe that the carrying of the motion submitted by Senator Gardiner would be more or less ineffectual.
– The responsibility for the appointment of a Commission would rest upon the Government.
– Yes. They would have to advise the GovernorGeneral whether he should appoint a Royal Commission or not. Honorable senators have been prepared not only to flout the Standing Orders, but to misquote Hansard to serve their purpose. When Senator Lynch was quoting from Hansard this afternoon honorable senators opposite, and amongst them the Leader of the Opposition, told him that what he was quoting was not in Hansard. When the honorable senator produced the;, report, and gave chapter and verse, page, date, and name for the quotation, honorable senators opposite came to the conclusion that they had made a mistake, and they have since been as dumb as the harp that hung on Tara’s walls. Standing in his place a few days ago, Senator Watson smote himself on the breast, and said, “ I thank God that I am not as other men. My character will stand the light of day.” It is an easy matter for any of us to laud himself up to the sky, but I have always understood that “ self-praise is no recommendation.” There is another old saying that “ Actions speak louder than words,” and if a man’s actions are not in keeping with his words, we should be guided as to his character rather by his actions than by his words. What is the attitude of this self-righteous and most honorable senator? He has voted along with his colleagues, in connexion with a ruling from the Chair, not to uphold the Standing Orders, but to have them flouted. If, as an honorable man, Senator Watson desires that everything should be done in an honorable way, I remind him that in this little matter his action was palpably in opposition to his words. As a member of the “ chain-gang “ party, he could not leave his colleagues upon any consideration. I did not expect anything else from his colleagues, who have not professed to be better than they are. They have led us to believe that, in their view, we are all out to win upon any conditions. They have shown that they are prepared to set aside law and order, the Standing Orders, and everything else, and to take direct action to carry everything before them when they have the power.
– We are all miserable sinners !
– That is the position in which honorable senators opposite have placed themselves. I shall not repeat the quotation which Senator Lynch made from Hansard this afternoon, but I agree with the Minister for Defence that no graver charge could be made than is contained in the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in another place that a sick senator had been “ doped.” This is but another striking illustration of the character of honorable senators opposite. Here we have a man who was their bosom friend, in their counsels for many years, and their henchman in the Senate since they have occupied their present position, but when he is stricken down by overwork and strain, they show that they possess no more bowels of compassion than an ordinary tom-cat, and say that he has been doped by some one on this side. I presume that the Leader of the Opposition will, before the debate closes, accept the amendment moved by Senator Pearce, and agree to an investigation into the whole of the statements and charges that have been made. If honorable senators opposite are not absolutely one-eyed, they will include in the charges to be investigated that made by their leader in another place that an honorable senator who was stricken down by the hand of the Almighty was doped by some one on this side. I think, however, that our honorable friends will not have the manliness to include that charge in the subjects of investigation, and the reason is that it would involve some one on the other side who has made a charge which he cannot substantiate. I hope that the whole business will be sifted at an early date. I fully recognise the wisdom of the constitutional provision giving us certain protection inside this chamber, but I say that the man who would shield himself behind that provision in a matter of this kind is cowardly. If any honorable senator is prepared to make a direct charge against any persons in high places, he should be prepared to back it up by making the charge outside this chamber. I repeat that if Senator Watson or any other honorable senator opposite is prepared to make a direct charge in this case, and allow it to be investigated by a Court of law, I, for one, will be willing to stand behind him and see that justice is done. If Senator Watson is prepared to make this charge outside and he is proved to be right, not only a majority of the Senate, but a majority of the people of Australia, will see that justice is done to him. But we are led to believe by the attitude of those who are associated with the. honorable senator, that they are not prepared to take that course, nor do they wish directaction in a Law Court to be taken. They prefer an inquiry by a Royal Commission, which, as I said before, would end in nothing.
– If it ends in nothing the charges will end in nothing.
– Not only I, but the Senate itself wants it to go further than that. A Royal Commission cannot go far enough; it cannot do all that I want to be done. I desire to get at the guilty person. If honorable senators on the other side are honest in their convictions, and wish to get at the guilty person, they will be quit© willing, and indeed the very first to advise their fellow senator to make the charges from a public platform in Australia, so that direct action may be taken to bring the matter before a Court of law at the earliest possible moment. But I do not believe that they are sincere.
– You must be an I.W.W. man.
– That is where the actions of honorable senators opposite lead me to believe they stand. I understand that the methods of the I.W.W. are, “ Never mind law and order or Standing Orders ; if we have the power we will ride roughshod over everything which comes in our way.”
– Were you not expelled from the I.W.W. ?
– Not that I know of. The Senate ought to decide whether a Royal Commission would go far enough in this matter. If honorable senators on the other side make a direct charge, and a Royal. Commission will go far enough, 1 will vote for its appointment. ‘But, as I think that an inquiry by such a body would not result in punishing the guilty person, I cannot vote for the motion, and I challenge those honorable senators to take steps to bring the case before a Court of Justice at the earliest possible moment.
– The privilege of Parliament was very hardly won, and was used as a bulwark right through the ages against the arbitrary power of tyrannous kings. But I am sorry to say that representatives in modern Parliaments frequently abuse the hardly-won privilege. To-day we had evidence of it here. We found the Senate ready to set aside its Standing Orders and to proceed to a forced discussion on a matter which deserves the most deliberate consideration.
– Is the honorable senator in order, sir, in saying that the Senate set aside the Standing Orders ?
- Senator Bakhap is not in order in saying that the Senate set aside the Standing Orders. That can only be done by a suspension of the Standing Orders in the way provided in them. The only action which the Senate took today was to disagree with my ruling.
– If I arn not in order, sir, in saying that the Standing Orders were set aside, I will say that, to my mind, a manifestly wrong construction was put upon them. Senator Gardiner, having pierced through those barriers which certain of the Standing Orders set up against him, formulated a motion which we are now considering. A few days ago Senator Watson, in his place, made a series of deliberate charges contained in a statement - charges against yourself, sir, charges against the Minister for Defence, and a charge against the Prime Minister. In asking for this inquiry, Senator Gardiner has practically exculpated, if exculpation was necessary, yourself and the Minister for Defence, for by not including Senator Watson’s very forcible references to yourself and the Minister for Defence in the terms of his motion, I claim that he has to all intents and purposes, as Senator Watson’s leader dropped those charges and completely exculpated you and the Minister for Defence. I was speaking about the abuse of the privilege of Parliament. Senator Gardiner got up in his place, and notwithstanding that he must have had actual knowledge of how events have transpired in this Chamber and elsewhere during the last ten or eleven days he sweepingly charged honorable senators on this side with having had previous cognisance of Senator Ready’s intended resignation. That is a gross abuse of the privilege of Parliament.
– He withdrew it.
– Why should the honorable senator have made such a charge, only to withdraw it? That is the sort of thing which I invite the people of Australia to consider when they are going to the ballotbox and selecting the representatives of their interests in the National Legislature. I have been a member of Parliament for some years, but neither in the State Parliament nor in this Chamber have I ever made a charge against anybody which I was not prepared to substantiate outside. As a matter of fact I do not think that I have made here a charge against anybody, and I certainly made no charge against any “person because of improper or corrupt conduct during the four years I was in the Tasmanian Parliament. That being so, I think honorable senators will recognise that I have some reasonable claim to discuss these important matters, which have caused such a raging controversy, in something approximating to a judicial sense. I was brought up in a judicial atmosphere. Frequently through my youth I had to attend Courts of high jurisdiction, and often I heard the best legal and judicial talent of the land deciding cases of great moment and importance. I venture to say that these charges of Senator Watson, without actually prejudging them, are not going to be sustained after they are competently examined. I advance that opinion, which, of course, may be rendered valueless by the event. But when a man like Senator Watson, admittedly a man of good character, comes in here after a very considerable interval with a prepared statement - not a statement compiled from notes made at the time when the alleged interviews took place, but a statement . made a fortnight afterwards - it will not have weight attributed to it by any competent tribunal with which I have an acquaintance, certainly not by a Judge of the High Court. That being so, let us ask ourselves whether an inquiry is necessary. This is the Upper Chamber of the Commonwealth Legislature, and even if charges are loosely laid, I venture to say that they should not be loosely set aside, for the reputation of this Chamber must be held high in the public gaze. I want the small States to have implicit faith in the integrity of this Chamber of the National Legislature, which is peculiarly their own. That being so, even if we have no belief in charges which are, I am sorry to say, sometimes too loosely made, let us not at any time shrink from a full investigation of them. It seems to me that honorable senators are at difference only in regard to the form of investigation which is necessary. It is admitted - the Administration admits by its readiness to accept the terms of the motion with an amendment - that an investigation is necessary. All that is asked is that the charges should be definite. As regards the main argument, the Administration is undoubtedly right. No charges at any time should be loosely made; no investigation should be demanded of charges which are made, as it were, in the vaguest kind of fashion - they ought to be very definite. ‘ I have no hesitation in saying that I will, in the first place, vote for the amendment, because those who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of formulating these charges - one of them in particular, against the Prime Minister - ought to recognise that they have also imposed upon them the obligation of making the charges definite. I have been waiting and waiting for all kinds of promised revelations in connexion with the matters which have been engaging our attention. I have been waiting for fuller revelations, and waiting for complete and unqualified withdrawals, for I could imagine that in the circumstances they would perhaps be made. When you are dealing with men of very peculiar temperament, you’ must be ready to anticipate anything. It is not astonishing to me, sir, that the charges against yourself and the charges against the Minister for Defence have practically been withdrawn unreservedly, for they are not included in the terms of this motion.
– Hear, hear ! Twothirds of the charges have been withdrawn.
– The other third is certainly conditioned by that withdrawal.
– Move an amendment including the Minister for Defence and the President, and I will accept it.
– Have I charged anybody ? Have I condemned anybody ? Have I made an allegation against anybody? The honorable senator has done so. He has remarkable “ neck,” to use an Australian phrase, to ask me to take upon myself the duties of a prosecutor. It is a most remarkable state of affairs. I will do nothing of the sort. Let the honorable senator include the charges in his motion. Let him move a further amendment, if he likes ; but I venture to say that, having a full knowledge of what were practically retractations on Senator Watson’s part when he was indulging in a war of interjections with Senator Millen, and when Senator Watson practically broke down under what was really a close cross-examination by Senator Millen, certainly in regard to the charges made against the President and the Minister for Defence, I say that you, knowing-
– Order ! The honorable senator will please address his remarks to the Chair.
– The Leader of the Opposition, knowing that the charges had practically broken down, did not think it wise to include them in the terms of his motion. I have said that the charge against the Prime Minister must be conditioned by that fact. When a man makes two charges against two in- dividuals in pretty definite and emphatic terms, and you find those charges withdrawn or dropped, you are justified in concluding that the third charge against another individual has not a very great deal in it. But that charge, for charge it was, if I remember the terms of Senator Watson’s deliverance, was to the effect that the Prime Minister offered him a monetary consideration for performing a certain act, namely, the resigning of his seat in the Senate in order to allow somebody else to be nominated by a State Parliament to the position. We have to consider the circumstances. I know nothing of Senator Watson’s private life. I understand that, privately, he is considered to be a decent citizen. He claims to be patriotic. He says that he has two sons fighting at the front. A charge of that kind, made by a man who is publicly a decent fellow, or who is thought to be such, must be investigated. We now come to the question of the kind o( tribunal which should investigate it. Senator Watson, no matter what may be the legal pains and penalties of his action, will not, if I understand the Labour party aright, have to suffer those pains and penalties himself. I know that there are bigger funds behind the Labour organizations than there are behind the Liberal organizations. I have always had to pay my own expenses as a Liberal candidate, and I know that the Labour candidates have not had to do so. If the Labour party really believes in the charge which Senator Watson has directly aimed at the Prime Minister, it will establish itself more in the public mind if it boldly fights the matter in the Law Courts - if it comes into the open - because the Prime Minister, as plaintiff, will then have to go into the witness-box and give evidence in favour of his claim for damages against Senator Watson. He will have to subject himself to examination and crossexamination. The right honorable gentleman has already shown a willingness to submit himself to examination in one of the ordinary Courts of the land. Of course Senator Watson may plead privilege, and while the privilege of Parliament is very often abused, I would not blame him for pleading privilege, because a member of Parliament must be judged by his constituents on his actions. If he is unworthy of his trust, they ought to punish him the next time that he appears before them. Senator Watson would, in my opinion, be taking a more manly course, and the Labour organizations behind him would be taking a more open course, by saying, “Yes. We accept the challenge. We pick up the gauntlet which has been thrown down, and we will fight this action, but not under cover of privilege.” Evidently they are not going to do that. They ask for another tribunal here. I have always believed that the right way to meet an accuser who demands an inquiry is to say “ Yes,” and to ram the inquiry down his throat. Therefore, I intend to vote for the amendment, because I believe that the charges should be specific- If the Labour party are so insensible of the rights of those who are charged as not to accept the amendment, then I shall vote for the motion. 4 I would not allow any party in this Chamber to say that at any time I burked inquiry. The responsiblity for making specific charges rests upon those who first made these allegations which have caused so much discussion. The responsibility for formulating the charges in such a way that a Royal Commission may satisfactorily inquire into them rests on the Opposition. The charges will have to be formulated in some way. It is more than probable that a Justice of the High Court would consider the terms of the motion which we are now debating, vague in the extreme. That motion does not embody the charge of Senator Watson that the Prime Minister endeavoured to bribe him with a monetary consideration. Yet it ought to be mentioned, for that is the only specific allegation against the Prime Minister in Senator Watson’s typewritten and wellconsidered statement. The Administration would be well advised to welcome the fullest and, speediest inquiry into this specific allegation of Senator Watson against the Prime Minister. The charges against the President and the Minister for Defence have been dropped. They are not even mentioned in the terms of this motion. I como now to the Senator Ready incident. In stating the other day that I thought Senator Ready was ill, I omitted to mention something which, in justice to him, I intend to mention now. I met him quite casually in the corridor, and the conversation already detailed by Senator Keating then took t>1 ace. But I remember that Senator Ready then told me that the doctor had given him a hypodermic injection of strychnine- - an injection which is frequently administered when the heart’s action is unsatisfactory. Once in my life I had a subcutaneous injection for the same reason.
– Was that after he came from the table upstairs?
– It was some considerable time afterwards. I asked him if he had done anything in his youth which might cause him to suffer from heart strain. “Yes,” he replied, “I used to be a great bike rider, and I have frequently ridden 100 miles at a stretch in the midlands. As a result I now suffer from heart strain.” I have related this incident in justice to the exsenator. He did what he was perfectly justified in doing. If he thought it right to resign his seat, who should say him “Nay”? Who should question his motives? The only allegation which can be made - if honorable senators opposite care to make it - is that his resignation was pre-arranged, and that some inducement must have been held out to him to resign. Whether that, is the case I do not know. But no allegation to that effect having been made, the Beady incident stands, a peculiar one I admit, but, after all, only an incident. Many incidents occur in the course of human life which .are inexplicable, but because they are inexplicable, and because they depend on the consciousness and action of one man, it does not follow that they are improper. A man communing and colloguing with himself may decide upon a course of action which outsiders do not understand. Other people may be suspicious, but unless they are prepared to make a specific allegation, they are not justified in challenging any personal act. I now ask whether Senator Gardiner alleges’ that ex-Senator Ready was given a consideration for taking a certain course of action ? There is silence.
– Let the honorable senator sit down and give me an opportunity of speaking, and he will get an answer definite and clear.
– The honorable senator has not given us an answer yet.
– The honorable senator himself has the floor, and that is why he is able to say so.
– Senator Gardiner does not seem to be able to find his tongue when I ask him about these things. My attitude is very clear. I have charged nobody, although I was invited to do so by Senator Gardiner in that I was asked to make an alteration in the terms of tha motion submitted by him. My concern is solely for my State, for the Senate, and for the proper conduct of the national business. I did not want our delegation to the Imperial War Conference, to leave our shores on the most important mission with which any Australian delegation has yet been charged, amidst a cloud of unsatisfied and undissipated suspicion. For that reason I intended at all hazards to vote in a certain direction the other day, and I intend now to vote for the amendment, and, failing its adoption, to vote for the motion, although in my judgment it has not been submitted in the most judicious fashion. The Prime Minister has been ‘ charged by Senator Watson, and although I believe that Senator Watson as a citizen is a desirable man, I am not particularly enamoured of the way in which he has acted since the bottom was knocked out of his charges by the cross-examination of Senator Millen the other day. Ever’ since then he seems to have absented himself from this chamber. When a man takes upon himself the grave responsibility of charging the Prime Minister with corruption, he ought not to be out of his seat in this chamber a minute longer than necessity enjoins upon him. He should be here to listen to every statement that is made, and to maintain the position which he himself has taken up - the position of an accuser of some of the highest men in the land. My position as a representative from Tasmania is very clear. I am not going to give honorable senators opposite an opportunity of going on the hustings and affirming that -the Senate burked an investigation.’ Let a Justice of the High Court investigate this matter. There are not many witnesses to be examined. In two or three days we should have a decision which should clear the atmosphere, and enable the electors to go to the poll in a chastened frame of mind, and to vote down the candidates of a party which . makes allegations that it is not prepared to follow up in a really proper manner.
.- I realize that all that is necessary to say upon this motion has already been said. But as my name is mentioned in one of its paragraphs, I do not desire to give a silent vote. At the outset, I wish tosay - and, perhaps, when I say it my speech has been delivered - that I am- not going to be a party to allow the privileges of this Chamber to be used by any individual to slander and malign another individual. I am jealous of the privileges of Parliament, because I recognise that it is very often necessary for a member of Parliament, in the public interest, to reveal certain conditions of affairs affecting the public which, perhaps, he would not be in a position to prove in a Court of Law. In such circumstances it would be his duty to bring the case before the Parliament of the State or the nation, but when an honorable senator seeks to use that privilege to take away the good name of another member, he is prostituting his position as a senator, and should not be upheld in that stand by this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition gave notice to-day of his intention to move that my position in the Senate be referred to the Disputed Returns and Qualifications Committee. When that motion comes on I intend to give the honorable senator my hearty support. I shall seek the fullest investigation that can possibly be made into the validity of my appointment to this Chamber. But to ask me to vote for a Royal Commission to investigate a charge which has been made by an honorable senator against another individual member of this Parliament is to ask me for something that I am not going to grant. It is not my desire to refer, except briefly, to the circumstances leading up to this litigation. On Senator Watson’s own admission, his action in turning into a charge of bribery and corruption a conversation between friends is beneath contempt. I am sorry indeed that honorable senators on that side allow suspicion to so carry them away as to indorse and support an honorable member who goes to another member of this Parliament, and in a friendy way discusses a certain situation - admitting afterwards that it was discussed as friend to friend, and that he was receiving advice in his own interest - and then turns the incident into a charge of bribery and corruption. I am of opinion that honorable senators opposite could tell us more about the resignation of Senator Ready if they liked. I believe that in his last discussion with the party he gave them very clearly to understand that he was not going to be leg-roped, shackled, and gagged by them in the position that he intended to take up. I have every reason to believe, although evidently they did not take him seriously, that he told them very candidly that he was not going to submit to it, and would probably resign.
– Quite wrong.
– I am glad I brought that interjection, but I have heard so many protestations from that side that possibly they did not realize at the time the true purport of Senator Ready’s words. I am not going to refer to the bitterness that has been displayed by the Official Labour party in this and the other branch of the Legislature. I feel sure that when they are communing with themselves, when they are removed from the excitement incidental to debate in either House, when they are examining their consciences, they are honestly ashamed of their actions. No man could be other than ashamed. The Leader of the Official Labour party in another place is a man for whom I always had a great respect, and I know that in his cooler moments, after considering what he said the other night, he was heartily ashamed of what he had done. I also resent the Germanic tactics of the Official Labour party in the Senate to-night. I quite agree that a party, in order to accomplish any end which it believes to be right, must embrace the opportune moment to do it, but it should be done constitutionally. No party, in consequence of having a majority at a certain moment, should ride roughshod over the rules and regulations of the Senate.
– You were going to change the Constitution last week with a chance majority.
– Nothing of the kind. The alteration of the Constitution proposed by another motion was sought and indorsed by honorable senators opposite in their party meeting, and also at their general conference.
– That has always been admitted - up till October, to bring the two elections into one year.
– Having admitted so much, the. honorable senator must consider the circumstances in which the same principle might be extended. I assure honorable senators that in no other circumstance than that the nation is at war would I agree to any interference by the Imperial Government with our selfgoverning Constitution. It is a serious thing for this Parliament to invoke interference by the Imperial Government with the Australian Constitution, and it is only because we are in a state of war, and it was absolutely essential that this part of the Empire should be represented at the great Imperial Conference, that I was prepared to agree to that interference, and the prolongation of the life of this Parliament. But when to-night, because they have a majority of one, honorable senators opposite propose to ignore the Standing Orders and the practice and procedure of the Senate, in order to force through a motion to establish a tribunal to try a case in which one honorable senator has maligned another member, they are going too far. That honorable senator could go to an open Court of Justice and make that charge, and suffer the penalty or receive the kudos of his action. Surely that is the more honorable course to adopt. I am jealous of the privileges of Parliament, but they should not be used to shelter a man who endeavours to take the good name from another. I am going to vote for the amendment, in order that Senator Watson may. make a special charge in black and white against the Prime Minister. Even then I admit that it is wrong to protect a man who is making a special charge against another, because, in any British country, there is a proper place to do that sort of thing, but I am going to meet honorable senators opposite that fax. If the amendment is defeated, I shall certainly vote against the appointment of a Royal Commission. When my own case comes up for consideration to-morrow, the Leader of the Opposition can rely upon my whole-hearted support to carry the motion, and make the fullest inquiry into my appointment.
– It is not my intention to cover any ground previously covered by me regarding matters already discussed in relation to the question before the Senate. I propose to support the amendment, because it is necessary to have some specific charge before there can be an inquiry. It is regrettable that the Government does not welcome an inquiry on general principles, for before such an inquiry could take place, it would be necessary to have some definitely and distinctly formulated charges. Honorable senators are forgetting that there are two sides to this situation. Charges may be levelled against an honorable member which may be specific in a Court of law, and charges may be made in Parliament which are not definite and specific, but which subsequently are required to be reduced to a specific and formal character before there is an inquiry. It will be remembered, in inquiries held in the States arising out of allegations made in Parliament against people occupying honorable positions, that, although the charges were general, and the Government welcomed the fullest inquiry, before the inquiry was proceeded with the Government demanded from those responsible for making them a definite and specific formulation of the charges. I do not wish to discuss the circumstances, in view of the possibility of a judicial or extra-judicial inquiry, but I think, in view of all the circumstances, the Government should have simply welcomed the inquiry. They should have thrown, it at honorable senators opposite with the most absolute confidence.
– Subject to the formulation of the charge.
– Exactly. The Government could have said, “ You can have your inquiry, for we are satisfied as to where we stand in , regard to this matter.” In the light of all that has transpired, and in the light of all I have heard and read in connexion with this matter, I think the Government would have been well advised if they had informed the Opposition that they could have the inquiry.
– They said so, but they voted against the motion.
– The formulating of specific charges, however, is absolutely necessary before there shall be any inquiry at all. I am glad the Leader - of the Opposition suggests that the inquiry shall be by a High Court Justice or perhaps High Court Justices. He spoke to-day about privilege, and of having had advice in connexion with privilege, and I want to ask him if he is prepared to adopt the position that in relation to ex-Senator Ready no question of the doctrine of privilege in regard to evidence shall be raised. It was suggested here only a few moments ago that there was perhaps some collusion between Senator Ready and his colleagues, and that this may have precipitated his resignation. As the honorable senator is no doubt aware - having been advised by eminent legal authorities - parliamentary privilege may be claimed in the Law Courts. Is he, and are his colleagues, in this matter willing to waive every claim of such privilege before this Commission?
– Silence i
– You ought to give notice of that question.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not give notice of his motion to-day.
– I will answer that question by-
-Order ! The honorable senator must not interrupt the debate by a speech. He may answer by an interjection.
– The Leader of the Opposition will see what I mean. There are two different and distinct tribunals. There is the Law Court which has been invoked by the Prime Minister and-
– No justice.
– No; the money bags control it.
– Have honorable senators no confidence in the Justices of the High Court?
– We have no control of justice in the Law Courts in a matter like this.
– The honorable senator knows that I could answer, but the President will not permit me.
– It has been suggested that if Senator Watson -is brought into Court he may claim privilege, and Senator Gardiner has emphasized that if Senator Watson went into Court without claiming privilege the Court would take judicial notice of the fact that his utterance was privileged. Do I interpret the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition correctly ?
– Well, in connexion with the appointment of a Royal Commission, is the Leader of the Opposition desirous to have the same rules as to privilege, or is there to be any variation?
– I will draft the rules if the Government will intrust me with that task.
– I take it that the honorable senator would draft the proposals.
– Yes, and the rules under which evidence shall be given.
-I understand what the honorable senator is driving at. Now, with regard to the inquiry generally, I would suggest, if the motion be carried, that if a Justice or Justices of the High Court are intrusted with the inquiry, he or they should be apprised of the actual pending proceedings in the various Courts. It should then rest entirely with him or them to determine whether the Commission should proceed with its inquiry, or whether it should be proceeded with publicly in such a way as might influence decisions in other matters.
– Will not these matters be considered by the Government before they appoint the Commission ?
– We have not had time to consider this matter at all. Senator Gardiner raised an important question of privilege to-day. If we can intrust a High Court Justice or Justices with the responsibility of . dealing with an important matter like this, may we not intrust such a tribunal with the responsibility of determining, free from party political passion, whether or not, and to what extent, and in regard to what particulars, they should proceed with the inquiry, pending consideration of other matters already launched before the appointment of this Commission ? I do not want to speak about the merits or demerits of Senator Watson’s allegations, or of the circumstances surrounding Senator Ready’s resignation. I do not think that- they are relevant to ‘ the issue before the Senate. I do know that in certain circumstances Royal Commissions have been appointed on general statements made by members of Parliament, but that subsequently to such Royal Commissions being constituted, those responsible for the statements, or those acting on behalf of such persons, have been called upon to formulate definitely and distinctly the charges in respect to which the inquiries have been ordered.
– I wish to state briefly my attitude on this question,- I was rather puzzled at the decision arrived at bySenator Bakhap. I can quite agree with that honorable senator in his .resolve to support the amendment in . order that some definite charge might be made on which a Royal Commission could inquire. I quite follow Senator Bakhap that far, but then the honorable senator said that ti the amendment were not carried, and even if no definite charge were made, he would still vote for the motion for a Boya] Commission to inquire into nothing at all, according to Senator Bakhap.
– The responsibility would still rest upon those responsible for the statement to formulate the charges.
– Senator Bakhap has told us that he will vote for the motion, even if there is nothing for the Commission to inquire into. I confess that I am puzzled at his attitude.
– I said that Senator ‘ Watson’s allegations contained one specific charge.
– There is nothing at all specific in the statement, and that is why I intend to vote against the motion. Senator Watson has merely insinuated that Mr. Hughes said something to him about money - that. if money stood in the way, it need not be a difficulty. Inferentially, the conversation meant that if Senator Watson found he could not live in Newcastle, he could live somewhere else. Does Senator Bakhap say that that is a definite charge to be investigated by a Royal Commission f It seems to me that the object of the motion is to endeavour te screen Senator Watson from the result of his own action.. Senator Watson is getting himself into trouble, and his colleagues in the Senate are now endeavouring to shelter him from the probable result. I can quite understand that Senator Watson would prefer a Royal Commission to the Law Courts, for if the matter were investigated by the . latter tribunal, I can quite imagine how counsel for .the Prime Minister would crossexamine Senator Watson as to the proceedings that led up to this charge. Senator Watson would then have to admit that he. came into this chamber and deliberately made public a private and confidential conversation, not with Mr. Hughes, but with the President of this Chamber, in the President’s private room. Counsel for Mr. Hughes would then probably ask Senator Watson, “ Are you not aware that among all men of the world, and in all stations of life, there is a code of honour that private and confidential conversations are sacred?” Even among school boys this code of honour is observed, for on occasions a whole class will take punishment rather than divulge something done by one of- them. The observance of this code is especially neces sary in political life. “Why, political life would be intolerable unless wo respected each other’s confidences. I have been in this Chamber for thirteen years, and during that time nothing so disgraceful happened as when Senator Watson got up in his place and divulged a private conversation. It was not done in the heat of debate, but had been put down in cold type, and read to the Senate. I never felt so ill in all my life as on that occasion, and I do not think that anything so disgraceful or low down has ever been done in this Senate before.
– Order I The honorable senator must not describe what any other honorable senator has done as disgraceful. .
– I withdraw that statement. I was assuming the attitude which counsel for the defence would take up, and I am certain he would make Senator Watson shrivel even more than he has shrivelled here during the last few weeks, if he possesses the tender conscience about which he was prating here the other day. I believe it is fear of his public exposure, and not the monetary loss that would be inflicted upon him, that has led his colleagues to take the irregular course that they have taken today in trying to force a decision on this motion, when they know that if the whole of the members could be present there would probably be a majority against it. I hope that, for the sake of the reputation of the Senate as a whole, as well as for the sake of the reputation of honorable senators opposite, they will agree to the amendment moved by Senator Pearce and that we shall have some definite charge made by Senator Watson, by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Gardiner, or by some other honorable senator on the other side. I hope that one of them will be prepared to get up and make a definite charge against Mr. Hughes, Senator Pearce, or any other member of this Parliament, and we can then have a properly constituted Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the whole matter and have it settled. Every honorable senator on this side is as anxious as is Senator Bakhap, and as are honorable senators opposite, that- this thing should be cleared up. Senator Watson has taken advantage of his position in the Senate to insinuate something which we believe to be quite unfounded, and, believing that a Royal Commission could not deal with such a vague insinuation, we consider that a definite charge should he made, and on such a charge the whole matter can be cleared up.
Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) T9.59]. - This matter has been so fully threshed out that it is impossible for any one to speak at length upon it now without repetition. The Leader of the Opposition, however,has spoken on the subject at least four times, and I may be pardoned if I make one or two observations on the position with which we are confronted. I think that Senator Story voiced the opinion of almost every member of the Senate when he said that when a man - even though he be so small a man as to divulge personal conversations which take place in a private place - is prepared to make a gross charge against another, it is his duty to make a definite charge in terms that will leave no room for misapprehension. Senator Gardiner’s first speech on this question was full of suspicions. If we are to come here day after day to debate suspicions we shall be for ever suspecting somebody and something. If I were so sure of a matter as to feel justified in standing up in this Chamber, as Senator Watson has done, to make such statements as he has made, I would be prepared to make them outside this Chamber. The man who is not prepared to take that course should for ever hold his peace. - The treatment of this matter by honorable senators opposite has raised a suspicion in my mind which I do not hesitate to mention. I am very doubtful whether the Opposition mean anything at. all but what they have already obtained. They have endeavoured to sow a poisonous seed in the minds of the people of Australia. They have been trying by innuendo to lead the public to believe that something is sadly wrong with the administration of the present Government, and that the people should be warned about them in consequence. They have not yet mustered sufficient manliness to tell the people what that something’ is. When they do so, I will stand by them and help them to get anything they want. If they continue to refuse to a man the opportunity to defend his character from the grossest insults, I shall be unable to regard them as fitted to represent the people of Australia in this Parliament. Above all things we should be honest with «ach other. We come here to do. what we think right, and in the best interests of our constituents, but surely we expect to meet as gentlemen, and as men with a sufficiently high sense of honour to refuse to traduce a man by innuendo. It appears to me that the Opposition have recently been practising the hymn of hate that the Kaiser was teaching his people, and it is a hymn of hate of Billy Hughes. During the last ten or eleven days honorable senators opposite have seemed to be consumed by a perfect hatred of Mr. Hughes. If the Prime Minister were removed from their path everything would go quite smoothly. They would do anything, and would support the Government in everything if those on the Government side would only undertake to remove the man who has made them, and who has done so much to give them the power and position they now possess. A good many of us would never have been here had if not been for the exercise by the Prime Minister of Australia of the powerful intellect he possesses in the furtherance of the great movement of which we are a part. This is the man whom honorable senators opposite are endeavouring to pull down and flatten out, and exterminate from the public life of the country. I am not at all inclined to believe that they will be successful. On the contrary, I anticipate that the flattening out will be experienced by those who sit on the opposite benches. Those who are crying out to-day against Mr. Hughes will, when they go before their masters the people, have bo reckon with the very innuendoes they throw out here under suspicion. They have gone so far as to say of a member of their own party some of the hardest things which one man is capable of saying of another. When men will abuse their privilege and right in order to damage a man’s character as far as they possibly can, they reduce politics to such a plane that men who possess honest souls and desire to be free to exercise their own consciences will turn a deaf ear to appeals made to them to take part in politics. So far as I am personally concerned, I shall have very little desire to do so if the conduct of which I have been a. witness here during the last nine or ten days is to continue much longer. I am satisfied that the people of Australia will not very long tolerate this kind of thing. When they are given the opportunity they will be found able to weigh and measure the very violent statements that: have been made in this Senate, with no other erd in view than the traducing of the character of a man who stands to-day as one of the foremost men in our national history.
– We have before us a motion and an amendment. Whilst I do not particularly favour either, I intend to support the amendment. I do not see any reason why the taxpayers of Australia should be called upon to pay for a Royal Commission to investigate statements of a personal nature made by Senator Watson. There are tribunals by which such statements could be more appropriately investigated, and if the appeal were made to them the Prime Minister, if found to be in the wrong, would be called upon to pay his own costs and those of Senator Watson as well, whilst if Senator Watson was found to be wrong he would be called upon to foot the bill. It appears to me that it would be fairer to adopt that course than to place the burden of the investigation upon the taxpayers. No charges have been made in the Senate against anyone, but certain statements have been made by Senator Watson, in which he referred to you, sir, and to the Minister for Defence. There is no mention in this motion of either yourself or Senator Pearce, and that naturally gives rise to some suspicion. Why have your names been left out of this motion? Is it because you, sir, and the Minister for Defence are present, and in a position to answer any charges made against you, and that the Opposition have preferred to launch their attack upon Mr. Hughes, who is not present in this Chamber, and on their former colleague and Whip, ex-Senator Ready, who is lying on a bed of sickness,’ and can take no part in the discussion, even outside the walls of this Chamber, as he would naturally like to do? Senator Watson held his statement in abeyance for something like ten days after he had repeatedly interviewed the President, the Minister for Defence, and the Prime Minister. After these interviews he confided in his colleague, Senator McDougall, and I believe a great many meetings of the Official Labor party were subsequently held. I am given to understand that a meeting of the party was held on the morning before Senator Watson made the statement. I believe that another meeting of the party was held during the dinner adjournment. The statement was imperfect, and the party had to hold another meeting next morning, I believe, before the statement was perfected and typewritten for Senator Watson to read to the Senate. Naturally he declared that he could have made the statement extempore the evening before, but he did not have the opportunity. Even having had the statement typewritten, we find the honorable senator, two days later, making an additional statement, and also declaring that later he would have further additions to make to the statement. During this day he has been conspicuously absent from the chamber. I do not know the reason for his absence.
– He voted here twice to-day, and you know it.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator has been preparing a statement.
– I am always prepared to sit and listen to a gentleman speaking.
– I thank thu honorable senator very much.
– But when men have no code of honour, I have no time to listen to them.
– If the honorable senator has prepared a statement, I hope that we shall hear it before we dispose of this motion to-night. I have come to the same conclusion as many previous speakers have arrived at, and that is that this charge or statement was brought forward by honorable senators opposite, not because they think that any good will be got out of it, but because they consider that it will be splendid stuff to use on the platforms later. Unless they have something more to bring forward than they have already submitted, I am quite satisfied to trust, the people of Australia to judge rightly between Senator Watson and the Prime Minister.
– So am I. We are agreed for once, at any rate.
– Honorable senators on the other side have got the idea into their heads that the Prime Minister is unpopular amongst a certain section of the people. They say to themselves, “ Now that we have got him down, we will put the boot into him,” and they are putting the boot into him for all they are worth, not failing to recognise that he is responsible for a majority of them being in this Parliament to-day. There are very few honorable senators on the other side, or on this side, who would be here now had it not been for the leadership of a man like Mr. Hughes, who has done more for the trade union movement in Australia during the last twenty-seven years than has any other man throughout the Commonwealth. This isthepayment which those who owe so much to Mr. Hughes are giving him today.
– He led the Labour party for the last twelve months, and he wrecked it.
– He did not wreck the Labour party. The Labour movement to-day is as strong and as healthy as ever it was, but the Official Labour party in this Parliament are not recognised by the men in the Labour movement outside as their leaders. They still look upon the Prime Minister as their leader. Now we come to the question of ex-Senator Ready. It is deplorable that these honorable senators, after having sat in Caucus with ex-Senator Ready for so many years, having had so much confidence in him as to elect him their Whip, should today, while he is lying on a bed of sickness, be able to say nothing good for him ; but, as he says himself in the press, under the cover of privilege of Parliament, vilify him, make statements concerning him which will cling to him for all thedays of his life. Why did ex-Senator Ready resign ? Honorable senators opposite want a Royal Commission to be appointed to inquire as to the reason for the resignation. Ex-Senator Ready has already told us the reason why he resigned. It is a straightforward, manly statement: but I am afraid my honorable friends on the Opposition benches fail to see any pure or high motives in the action of any individual who happens to disagree with them on political questions. Certainly ex-Senator Ready has exposed the Leader of the Opposition here, because he has informed us that the action of Senator Gardiner in the Caucus meeting doesnot tally with the statements made by Senator Gardiner in the Senate.
– Do you say that?
– Yes. I was not surprised this afternoon to find that the honorable senator was very hardly hit by the statement of the aforetime Whip of the Official Labour party. To-day we find his old friends and colleagues, for whom he had done so much, reviling him and throwing suspicion upon him. Senator Gardiner himself declared here that it would need the whole of the waters of the Pacific Ocean to wash away the suspicion that rested upon him.
– Or any other man who resigned under similar conditions.
– It is only Liberal members of the Senate to-day who are prepared to stand up and defend the character of ex-Senator Ready, and ask the people to withhold their judgment until they have heard the explanation pub forward by him. He has stated his side of the question, and, personally, I am prepared’ to accept his statement in preference to the suggestions thrown out by Senator Gardiner and by Mr. Tudor, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, who referred to Senator Ready as having been “doped,” or to the statement of SenatorFerricks that Senator Ready had been bought. I have no suspicion of ex-Senator Ready. I firmly believe that he acted honestly and conscientiously. Knowing the man in this Parliament so long as I did, I think that I owe it to him to say what I believe concerning his actions. I believe that he has done nothing which he need be ashamed of, and the Government have done nothing which they need be ashamed of in connexion with the matter. If Senator Gardiner were in the position of the Prime Minister, and heard that there was a member of the Senate going to resign, there is no man in this Parliament who wouldbe so ready to rush to the Premier of the State and make an arrangement for somebody on his side to fill the seat than he would. I am prepared to support the amendment, but I do not give my word that, if it is carried, I will support the motion as amended. As I said at the commencement of my speech, I do not think that it is a fair thing that the people of Australia should bear the expense of this investigation. I consider that the expense should be borne by whichever person is in the wrong in connexion with the dispute.
– I have not very much to say, except, perhaps, to amplify something which I have already said. In the. first place, sir, I would point out the discrepancy in the statements of honorable senators on your left. I draw attention to the fact that all the speeches which have been delivered here to-day have, with the exception of that of the Leader of the
Opposition, been made by honorable senators sitting on your right. I do not think that is a justifiable spectacle in any sense. Because there has been a grave charge made. Against whom? Against the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth - against the Leader of the Labour party for the past twentyfive years - a charge of corruption. Almost everything that has been said this afternoon has been said by honorable senators on the Ministerial side of the chamber. A serious position like the present, I contend, calls for something more than silence on the one side and defence on the other. If it is intended to pillory the Prime Minister, those who charge him with corruption should amplify that charge. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that, on the best legal authority, he has been advised that the suit instituted by the Prime Minister cannot be tried by the Law Courts of this country. On the other hand, Senator McKissock says that even if it be tried there, justice will not be obtained. The Leader of the Opposition has also speculated upon the unseen influences which operated to change a majority upon one side of this chamber into a majority on the other side. But when, in another place, Mr. Mcwilliams crossed the floor from the right of Mr. Speaker to the left, there was no suspicion, then, of corruption at all. That was a case in which conscience was speaking. When an honorable senator crosses from one side of this chamber to the other side, nothing but corruption is at the bottom of his action, but when a supporter of the Government goes over to the Opposition, his action is prompted by high motives - by conscience alone. Senator Gardiner cannot have it both ways. There are two sets of opinions amongst honorable senators opposite, and they are like microbes in a septic tank, they are eating each other. My own opinion of parliamentary life is that there are, and have been, just as honorable men upon one side of politics as there are upon the other. We have not yet reached a stage at which it lies in the mouth of any public man to say that the operation of base, unworthy motives is responsible for the majority upon one side of this chamber being transformed into a ma- jority on the other side. In the interests of the preservation of the morality of our public life, I believe that every public man should hold that opinion. Until we have facts at our disposal to substantiate charges, we should be very chary of attempting to soil our public life, which, up to the present, has been exceptionally clean as compared with that of other selfgoverning communities. Any man who makes such charges is merely fouling his own nest. Until he can put witnesses into the witness-box, both he and those who back him are merely dragging the public life of this country into the mire. Senator Watson has made certain charges against the Prime Minister.
– Does the honorable senator think that Senator Watson is a liar?
– What does the “ honorable senator think?
– I think that he is an honorable man.
– I think that the Prime Minister is an honorable man.
– Let us have a Commission to find out.
– I will put the honorable senator to the test sooner than he desires it. This is the highest council of the nation, and an attempt has been . made to drag it down. By whom? By the members who compose it. That does not make for the purity of our public life. Senator Watson, I repeat, has made charges against the Prime Minister. That honorable senator arrived in this Chamber only a few years ago. On the other hand, Mr. Hughes has twenty-five years of public life to stand as a witness on his behalf. Can any honorable senators opposite blow the breath of suspicion on him over that long period of a quarter of a century, during which he has been the faithful advocate of the Labour cause? Let us place the two side by side. Senator Watson, without producing even the semblance of a witness in his favour, stands forward, with his short career in the public life of this country, and charges with attempted bribery a man who has grown old and disheartened in the cause which he has so much advanced.
We have “been asked whether if charges are made we will support the appointment of a Royal Commission. Now, I am going to be a sport. I ask Senator “Watson to stand up and say that the Prime Minister attempted to bribe and corrupt him. If he says that, I will support the motion for a Royal Commission. If he will stand up and pledge his word that he will release from the seal of confidence every person with whom he has had conversation, both inside and outside this chamber, upon his position in the Official Labour party and as a member of the Senate, I will vote again for the appointment of a Royal Commission. That circumstance shows that honorable senators upon this side of the chamber are not bound hand to foot, that our consciences are in our own keeping, whereas honorable senators opposite dare not move unless as directed and in accordance with the sealed orders which come from the secret juntas in their respective States.
I feel that on this matter we have to realize the grave responsibility which rests upon us. We are public men to-day, but we may not be public men to-morrow. Nevertheless, we should have in our hearts and consciences no desire to pull down the public institutions of this country and to soil the fair name of this Parliament. Here is an attempt being made to soil it. Let us put side by side the two statements which have been made by . Senator Watson. We know what was the nature of his first accusation. But later on what did he say. Here are his own words: Senator Watson, who has been roaming round, like an untarnished innocent, marvellously escaping the pitfalls, has stated, as his latest utterance, that you, sir, the Prime Minister, and Senator Pearce, spoke to him as advisers and friends, and tried to counsel him as to what was the best course in his own interests. Each of the three, he said, sought to advise him as a friend. That is the latest development. What was at first an attempt at bribery has become now mere friendly counsel. In the first instance, Senator Watson’s statement was, in effect, that the three gentlemen whom I have named had been guilty of impropriety, bribery, and corruption; and in that he was supported by the whole of the members of the Opposition, who now, like Paddy’s parrot, are not much for talking, though they are the devil for thinking - perhaps “scheming” would be a better word. The members of the Opposition must share with Senator Watson the blame for having broken the seal of a private conversation. Such a thing was never done before in this Parliament. Now Senator Watson says that the conversation between him and you, Mr. President, the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Defence, was a conversation between friends, and the Leader of the Opposition has pulled away two of the props by which the original charge of bribery was supported, and left only one prop. According to him, there remains now only one culprit, the Prime Minister.
– Or, according to Senator Watson, only one friend.
– Yes. You, Mr. President, and the Minister for Defence, may now be quite easy in your conscience. Senator Gardiner does not associate you with the offence charged. There should be some explanation of this. Why should the Prime Minister come in for all the obloquy, bitterness, and hatred of honorable members opposite?
– Because he is the head of the Government.
– Is it chivalrous for them to aim their envenomed shafts entirely at one man ?
Let me now come to the case of exSenator Ready, at one time Whip, and an honoured member of the Official Labour party in this Chamber. He has resigned his seat in the Senate, and that has given the Ministerial party here a majority. The events which occurred in the short period preceding his resignation have been given great prominence by honorable senators opposite. They have called him Judas, and traitor, and heaped other choice epithets on him. Lastly, the leader of the party in another place, not to be outdone by honorable senators here, has declared that Senator Ready, who dropped off a chair in the dining-room, was doped, or drugged, or poisoned. Honorable senators tried to stop me when, early in the evening, I sought to quote from the official record exactly what Mr. Tudor had said. But who was beside Senator Ready when he fell from his chair? No less than two members of his own party - Senator Stewart and Mr. Frank Anstey. We are getting to a nice position when the leader of a party that was once at the apex of popularity in this country makes charges of such a despicable character.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to refer in such terms to a member of another place, and I ask him to withdraw, unreservedly, what he has said.
– I withdraw, unreservedly, sir, the words to which you take exception; though, with Bacon, I think that one cannot contend coldly for what he believes earnestly, unless he be a marble man, which I am not. The statement of the Leader of the Official Labour party amounted to this - that Senator Ready was poisoned by a member of that party. The men on your left sought this afternoon to contradict me when I was quoting from the records of Parliament, and it was not until the volume was produced, and the facts rammed down their throats, that they had to hold their peace. We have heard to-day from ex-Senator Ready an indication of what he will say later on. He speaks, not about members cn your right, but about those on your left. According to this morning’s Age, he said towards the end of his statement -
I could forthwith resign my seat. This step I took, my collapse at Parliament House making me sure I was doing the only tiling left in the circumstances; and although I knew it would cause some comment, I never imagined such dastardly criticism would follow my action, especially from some of my old associates.
Where are they ? They sit on your left. We do not call their conduct dastardly. Their old colleague and trusted friend does that. He hales them before the bar of public opinion, and charges them with dastardly conduct -
I quite see that it has been done for electioneering purposes.
He says that these gentlemen, who have been accusing him of such vile practices and low-down conduct in this chamber and outside, are blasting his character to smithereens for the base and foul purpose of lifting themselves into Parliament -
I quite see it is a method of affecting votes. I quite see that such methods are to influence public opinion -
Their former Whip, and not members on this side, charges his late colleagues with this - but I never imagined that such venom, spite, and calumny would ever be uttered by men. who do not” hesitate to accuse, condemn, and damn even their own comrade broken down in health.
What have honorable senators opposite to say to that ? It is a wonder that no sleeping instinct of manhood rises in their souls to protest against a policy that chains them all together, and does noi allow one of them to break free and say, “I do not associate myself with this.” We do not stand in like case to them. We stand here to give ex-Senator Ready and everybody else the benefit of the doubt until they are proved guilty. On the slender ground of vase and false suspicion, those men have called him names from Judas Iscariot downwards. That is a sad development in the public life of this country. Ex-Senator Ready speaks in these unmeasured terms, not of us whom he fought bitterly and consistently right through the piece, giving us no quarter and expecting none, but of the men who are attempting to blast his character, and suggesting that he was drugged and poisoned by members on this side. They will never get away with it so long as I have breath in my body. I shall pursue every one of those Official Labourites that have banded themselves together in the endeavour, not only to damn the progress of the country, but to damn the man who fell down in a fainting fit, and was perhaps as near death’s door as any man has ever been within the walls of this Parliament. He says -
I notice that practically every charge that can be laid against me has been’ alleged.
What follows supports my contention that these charges should go into the Courts of the land, where every man stands equal before the law. These men opposite are afraid to go there. Senator Watson has refused to utter a word of these charges outside the door of the Senate. He makes them here where he is safe. Ex-Senator Ready’s statement concludes -
If those who have made these allegations under Parliamentary privilege will come out and make them in the open I will then know what action to take.
Why not give this man a chance - this man who was stricken down by illness here ? He invites them to come out in the open, but they are clustering here in the coward’s castle, sheltering themselves behind a movement to damn his character before the public, in order to save their miserable selves. I can quite understand that Senator Stewart laughs, but if he was in ex-Senator Ready’s position tonight he would not laugh with that cynical laugh of his, and with that steely, stony glare on his face, like one of those troglodytes in the Queen’s Hall. If he was in your chair or in the position of the Minister for Defence he would feel different. If he was in the place of any man whose fair name and character were besmirched, even he would feel his position, and would not echo forth that cynical laugh of his. It is no laughing matter with me.I am concerned about maintaining the honour, dignity, high name, and reputation of the Federal Parliament. If I felt to-night that Mr. Hughes was guilty of bribery, I would walk to the other side of the chamber, but I favour taking the matter into the open Court, because that is the only means of settling the question. I am in favour of making it easier for honorable senators opposite by asking Senator Watson these two questions : Will he now rise in his place and say that the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, attempted to bribe and corrupt him ? Will he also say that ho will release from confidence all persons with whom he has been in conversation about his membership of the Official Labour party and the ensuing election? If he does that, I will walk across and support him and the motion of his leader.
– Sit where you are, for goodness’ sake.
– My offer shows again that we on this side are out for fair play, and that no distrust, suspicion, or jealousy animates our minds. We are here because we would yield to no man, institution, or body of men in giving expression to our thoughts. We are the worthy descendants of all those who went before us in standing up against tyranny of every form and kind. Within the band of Labourites on this side is contained that unconquerable and uncaged spirit that alone counts for anything in the race to-day. You could never in God’s creation make a nation of the men on your left. Those Labourites on this side who went out are worthy representatives of the race that have braved tyranny all through the ages, from the time that King John was challenged at Runnymede. We are the truest champions that Democracy ever had, because we are out to guard that conscience which Senator Stewart professes to be so anxious to guard, but which he is so slow to defend and so boneless in protecting.
– The honorable senator should recognise that he must speak to the amendment.
– I have been keeping as closely as possible to the amendment, and would point out that the subjectmatter of the motion and the amendment are in reality very nearly allied. I have only to say that I am here again to stand by the proposal I made to Senator Watson, and those with whom he sits, that if he will give us the pledges that I have requested of him, I shall cross the floor and show that there is freedom amongst honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Pearce’ s amendment)- put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Speaking to the motion, I must again state that I have voted-
– On a point of order, I submit that Senator Bakhap, having spoken to the amendment and the motion since the amendment was moved, is not now entitled to address himself to the main question.
– If the point is likely to occupy much time I shall waive my right, and on the motion for the adjournment put before the Senate what I desire to say.
– If the honorable senator had confined himself strictly to the amendment, lie would be entitled now to speak to the original motion, but if, in speaking to the amendment, he dealt with the general subject covered by the original motion as well as by the amendment, he will not now be in order in speaking to the main question.
– In any case I waive my right.
– Before dealing in reply with the statements that honorable senators have made during this debate, I wish to make something in the nature of a personal explanation. Whilst Senator Lynch was speaking this afternoon he quoted statements made by Mr. Tudor in another place. With Mr. Tudor’s speech in front of me I thought that his quotation did not fit in with what Mr. Tudor was reported to have said. Believing that the honorable senator was misquoting him, I raised a point of order. I subsequently discovered that he was quoting from interjections made by Mr. Tudor in the course of a speech delivered by Mr. Poynton, and that those quotations were correct. I wish the Senate to understand that I was absolutely honest in rising to a point of order, and that I was following the report of Mr. Tudor’s speech. I shall not deal with the statements made by every honorable senator during this debate, but I should like, in the first place, to reply to the complaint of the Leader of the Senate that ordinary courtesy demanded that I should have given him notice of my intention to submit this motion. Since I have been leading the Opposition the Leader of the Senate has never given me, unasked, any information regarding Government business. I put that as a setoff against his complaint. I recognise what is due to my position, and do not hesitate to say that I have extended, and will extend, to the Government all the courtesy to which I think they are entitled!
– I accept your statement fully. The trouble is you do not think we are entitled to much.
– Well, that is a matter for consideration. I can assure the Senate, however, that Senator Lynch will bear witness that I went out of my way to warn him to be here this week. During the course of this debate Senator Lynch, Senator Senior, and Senator Shannon spoke as if I had laid a charge against certain individuals, and had not included you, Mr. President, and the Minister for Defence. I want to make it quite clear that I made no charge at all, but that I have been asking for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into charges made by Senator Watson directly against the Prime Minister. If his words mean anything they mean that the Prime Minister offered him a bribe.
– Which Senator Watson said was friendly advice.
– I will read exactly what Senator Watson said, and if his words do not contain a definite charge I do not know what the English language means.
– Senator Watson has withdrawn some of the statements.
– I will reply to that at once. Nothing has been withdrawn. In the Senate and in another place it has been stated that, in reply to Senator Millen, Senator Watson had withdrawn half of the charges, but I am going to put the position quite clearly before the Senate. In reply to Senator Millen, Senator Watson said -
I say that the conversations took place with Senator Givens, Senator Pearce, and Mr. Hughes. It was deliberately stated by them that they were as to a friend, and I accepted what they said in that spirit, though I did not agree with the proposition they put before me. When the matter ended there, I did nothing beyond telling my intimate friends and colleagues on this side what had taken place; but when there was the development concerning Senator Ready, I saw that he had fallen into the’ trap set for me, and I considered it my duty to at once communicate the matter to the Senate.
– Is that not a charge against Senator Ready ?
– I will read that last paragraph again. Senator Watson said -
When there was a development concerning Senator Ready, I saw that he had fallen into the trap set for me, and I considered it my duty to at once communicate the matter to the Senate.
Certainly that is a question that should be inquired into.
– Now read the other statement by Senator Watson.
– I will read what is essential. Senator Watson started his statement by saying -
In view of the statement made, by the President yesterday concerning the resignation of
Senator Ready, I feel impelled to make a statement to this honorable House and the country concerning certain conversations I have had with the President of the Senate, Senator Pearce, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes.
Now honorable senators have been clamouring for some one to make a definite charge of attempted bribery, and I am going to quote what Senator Watson said. It will be found on page 10848 of Hansard -
Hereferring to the Prime Minister - asked me did money stand in my way, as I would lose nothing by coming over to them, and stated that he hadnever deserted any man who had stood by him.
Is not that an allurement to Senator Watson? “Does money stand in your way?” asked the Prime Minister. “You will lose nothing by coming over.” If that is not a definite offer of a bribe or an allurement to a member to go from one side of the Chamber to the other, then all I can say is that words fail to convey what a bribe means.
– And after a fortnight’s consideration Senator Watson said he considered- it was the statement of a friend.
– Yes ; he regarded all honorable senators as his friends. Let me now read what May’s Parliamentary Practice has to say on the question of offering bribes to members -
The offer of money, or other advantage, to a member of Parliament for the promoting of any matter whatsoever depending or to be transacted in Parliament is a high crime and misdemeanour. And in the spirit of this resolution the offer of a bribe, in order to influence a member in any of the proceedings of the House, or of a Committee, has been treated as a breach of privilege, being an insult not only to the member himself, but to the House.
– But the honorable senator said he was not insulted.
– The Minister is trying to put into Senator Watson’s mouth words which the Leader of the Senate used in his own tricky way. Mr. Hughes invited Senator Watson to say if it was money that stood in his way, and that if it was, he had nothing to fear, as he, the Prime Minister, never went back on a friend in his life. Could there be clearer evidence of an offer of a bribe? Things like this are not done in the open, but are done secretly, where it will always be a case of one man’s word against another’s.
– If that is the case, what is the use of an inquiry?
– I am asked what is the use of an inquiry.
– Yes, on your statement of the case..
– There should be an inquiry, and the question whether a bribe had been offered by Mr. Hughes would depend upon the sifting of the evidence. The whole of the evidence should be placed before a Royal Commission consisting - as it should consist, in my opinion - of a Justice or Justices of the High Court. I have not limited or defined the scope of the Commission in any way. The Government may do that. I merely want the Senate to say that, as the honour of its members and of Parliament has been impugned, it rests upon the Government to call into existence a Royal Commission to make a full and searching inquiry.
– And you will keep the Commission going until after the elections.
– If the Commission were in the hands of honorable senators they would take good care that its work was expedited. , Senator Pearce. - Electioneering dodges.
– No Judge of the High Court, if given this duty, would permit us to delay the essential part of that inquiry in any way. Personally I have no desire to do that. I want to be quite clear. Honorable senators opposite have said that this motion is a vindictive attack upon Mr Hughes.
– What else is it?
– Since I parted company with Mr. Hughes I have never, publicly or otherwise, uttered one bitter statement against him, but I have gone out of my way - as I did at a Labour meeting in Ballarat - to prevent a personal attack upon the Prime Minister.
– And you have said here that you would do your’ utmost to drive him out of public life.
– I may have, but that is not a vindictive attack upon the Prime Minister. I said that absolutely in the public interest, because I have had experience of him, and his present colleagues will also have an experience of him in a very short time. In my statement to-day I said that this matter could not come before an outside Court, and Senator Keating, although he did not say I was right, did not go out of his way to say I was wrong. That is something to be thankful for. Section 49 of the Constitution provides -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the Committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and Committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
This makes it clear that our privileges are the same as those of the British Parliament. Earlier in the day, I referred to an opinion by a distinguished counsel with regard to this case coming before the Court.
– Is it Mr. Blackburn?
– No. If I were at liberty to give the name, I should do so; but, as I have not seen the gentleman since, I do not think I ought to mention it. It might be that my statement of the case as a layman might not be exactly indorsed by him ; but I have here now the report of the case to which I have referred, and which I desire to put before the Senate. The case is that of Dillon v. Balfour, and is reported in the Irish Law Reports as follows : -
Dillon v. Balfour - 20 I Law Reports, Ireland, page 600, 1887.
Before Palles, C. B., Andrews, J.
This was an action by a midwife and monthly nurse against the Chief Secretary of Ireland -
For words spoken by him in the House of Commons,
and for an alleged publication of such words in certain newspapers.
Plaintiffs’ counsel, Nolan, Q.C., v. Bodkin.
Admitted there could be no dispute as to the absolute privilege, whether spoken maliciously or not.
Mr. Nolan contended that the Court could not interfere till the defendant pleaded privilege.
Palles, C. B., in giving judgment, pointed out the differences in cases cited by Mr. Nolan and the present case. The Court has to decide whether the House has the privilege. “ We have but to open the statute-book, for the Bill of Rights declares its existence as one of the ancient rights and liberties of the realm.” Of this we are, of course, bound to take judicial notice. Ought we to put the defendant to plead? Such a plea need not aver the existence of the privilege. That is a matter of which we take judicial notice. The sole allegation in it would be that the words were spoken in Parliament, and it is the plaintiff’s case that the words were spoken.
– That statement was made on the supposition that defendant declined to plead. Senator Watson may plead, and thus overcome the difficulty.
– Do not interrupt me until I am finished -
What should we do?’ Assume that the defendant declines to plead. Can any one contend that the proceedings would be regular, or that this Court, in permitting them, would not be lending itself to a commission by the plaintiff of a breach of parliamentary privilege. We are not prepared to adopt any such course. There is no case to be found in which, when the Court assumed (as we do here) that the action was brought in breach of parliamentary privilege, it so far forgets its duty as to fail to assent and give effect to that privilege as if it were its own.
The writ and statement of claim must be taken off the file.
Once the fact that the words were spoken in Parliament the jurisdiction of the Court is ousted.
– We all agree to that.
– You have all been saying the very opposite. The Bill of Rights says -
That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or place out of Parliament.
That settles once and for all that this case cannot come before the Courts, which, according to that case, have no jurisdiction to deal with matters within the privilege of this Parliament. It is because I know that, and because I think that the action taken by the Government is calculated to close our mouths, that I am of the opinion that there should be a full investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the charge made by Senator Watson, the retirement of Mr. Ready, and the introduction, in his place, of Senator Earle. Are there no suspicious circumstances ?
– There are no suspicious circumstances on my part I
– Then will the honorable senator vote toallow an investigation to be made by a High Court Judge ?
– Why not take the responsibility of making a charge?
– I make no charge unless I know something, and I make no pretence of knowing anything personally; but I do say that there are the most suspicious circumstances that ever disgraced the public life of this country.
– Senator Watson, inferentially, makes a charge when he says that Mr. Ready succumbed to the temptation which Senator Watson himself withstood.
– I said that that was the impression created in my mind.
– Let us get away from all special pleading and look this matter honestly and squarely in the face. Here we have a party with a majority, barring the way to what the Government are trying to do. We have your statement, Mr. President, that you of your own volition sent your messenger to invite Senator Watson to your room that you might persuade him of the evil course he was pursuing in opposing the Government; and you went out of your way to say that you were not offering him any consideration, allurement, or bribe.
– I never made any such statement. It was Senator Watson who made the statement.
– All right; but I was quite under that impression. However, you will not deny that you sent for Senator Watson to come to your room to have a conversation with him.
– There is nothing wrong in that.
– There may not be; but it is very bad taste for the Presiding Officer of this, or any assembly like it, to try to get a majority to go from one side to the other. Senator Watson waa sent for by the President to discuss what was in the way of that senator leaving the party on this side and joining the other.-
– The honorable senator must not misrepresent the case. Senator Watson never made any such statement; he distinctly stated that I had impressed on him that I was not asking him either to vote for or support the Government in any way.
– Senator Gardiner is trying to put in his own words and not those of the President.
– I am putting the impression created on my mind, and the impression is that the President sent for Senator Watson to have a conversation with him in his room. That, so far is established; but my honorable friends opposite, and many of their supporters outside, are saying that Senator Watson went to look for the President. I have established clearly and indisputably that the President sent for Senator Watson to come to his room, where they had a conversation, and the President pointed out to Senator Watson the advantages - the political advantages, for I do not wish to impute anything further - of his going from one side to the other.
– Senator Watson did not say that about the President.
– I am saying it, and I take the responsibility of saying it. Then Senator Pearce, by telegram, invited Senator Watson to see Mr. Hughes in Sydney; and, because Mr.- Hughes was not going to Sydney at the time, cancelled the request by means of another telegram. I have established the fact that Senator Watson did not look for those gentlemen, but that, those gentlemen looked for him.
– Is that why Senator Watson waited an hour outside the Prime Minister’s office 1
– I did nothing of the kind.
– It was at this meeting that the Prime Minister asked Senator Watson what stood in his way, and said that if money stood in his way he would never go back on a friend. That happened on. the Wednesday before Parliament met. Honorable senators have asked, Why did the honorable senator nurse this matter for eight days? There was no such period. The Senate met on a Wednesday; a Government statement was made, and immediately the adjournment of the Senate was moved. The Senate met next day, and again there was a hurried adjournment.
– On the motion for adjournment an honorable senator can speak on any matter he likes to deal with.
– I am just coming to the fact. In the following week we met on Wednesday, and on Thursday Senator Watson rose to make his statement, but unfortunately at that time he could not speak, because the question for the adjournment of the Senate was being put. So that actually on the four sitting days of the Senate he rose to make a statement. I am pointing this out in fairness to him. When honorable senators talk about the period, they know very well that it is most difficult for any honorable senator who is not well acquainted with the procedure to get in a statement. I am suggesting that Senator Watson would not have made the statement he did unless something had happened; unless Senator Ready had fallen into the trap which was set for himself. I do not wish to delay the Senate. I have put the case fully and candidly. I have laid no charges against any one. I want an investigation into the charges made by Senator Watson. I wish, as I said before, that I could wash out of my mind the suspicions which I have against ex-Senator Ready and Senator Earle. I believe that they were parties to an arrangement which commenced on the Friday previously - an arrangement by which Senator Ready should disappear and Mr. Earle should come on to the scene.
– Suspicion is a tribute which the ignorant pay to the unknown.
– I do not care what kind of tribute it is. Here we have a telegram from the Prime Minister, on Friday, the 23rd February, to the Premier of Tasmania, asking him to come and fixup matters. We have a statement of the Premier of Tasmania that in a certain conversation the fact that a vacancy in the representation of Tasmania was to occur, was told to him. Mr. Earle came over with Senator Ready, prepared to take hip place here. I wish I could free my mind from these suspicions. I cannot, and I do not desire to do so unless they are tested by some such inquiry as that which I am asking for. The whole thing points to the fact that Mr. Hughes made the statement that he knew there was to be a vacancy, and he made his plans accordingly.
– And you did the same thing in connexion with the vacancy on the Public Works Committee. You knew that there was going to be a vacancy, and you made your plans accordingly.
– Was that a bribe?
– I made no plans. I had nothing to do in connexion with the Committee except to openly move that another honorable senator should take the place of Senator Newland in the motion.
– And you arranged it beforehand.
– There is the position which surrounds Senator Earle and ex-Senator Ready with so much suspicion that nothing but the fullest and fairest inquiry could wipe it out of the mind of any fair man. I ask for an inquiry in the interests of those gentlemen as well as in the interests of the Premier of Tasmania, in the interests of the island State, and in the interests of this Parliament, so that our public institutions shall not only not participate in these questionable practices, but shall be absolutely above suspicion.
Question - That the motion (Senator Gardiner’s) be agreed to - put. The Senate divided-
Ayes . . . . . . 18
Noes .. .. ..13
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That a Royal Commission be appointed immediately to investigate and report -
On the charges made by Senator Watson against the Prime Minister, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes.
The circumstances surrounding the resignation of Senator R. K. Ready, and the appointment of Mr. John Earle to the Senate.
That a Justice of the High Court be commissioned to conduct the inquiry.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform the Senate whether it is the intention of the Government to tabulate the information contained in the wealth census cards ?
– I can offer no promise that I can induce the Government to undertake any such enterprise, but I will bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice of the Minister concerned.
Distribution to Soldiers at the Front.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the reported statements that the Prime Minister and General Birdwood were given facilities to distribute manifestoes to the soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force at the front, urging them to vote “ Yes “ at the recent military service referendum, can those who represent the workers have the assurance of the Government that facilities will be afforded them for the distribution of their manifesto?
– The attention of the honorable senator is directed to the replies furnished to his question on the 14thult.
Enlistment of L. W. Edsum and W. Watt
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With reference to a communication read in the Senate on28th February,1917, by Senator de Largie, and purporting to have been signed by L. W. Edsum and W. Watt, stating that they were two young men from the Malay States, who, after having heard from seats in the gallery the remarks of SenatorFerricks, had decided to enlist, have L. W. Edsum and W. Watt yet enlisted?
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. No new orders with regard to leave have been issued. The order concerning one night leave in five has been in existence since 21st January, 1916. The Commandant, Syd ney, represented that the instructions that men shall return to camp at 11 p.m. debar them from attending theatres. As a special case for the Liverpool Camp, orders have been issued that such men may have their passes indorsed to return by the last train which leaves Sydney for Liverpool. Only 20 per cent. of the men in camp are allowed this privilege, which means that once in every five nights a man may have leave until 12.30 a.m. In addition to this evening leave as stated, week-end leave, commencing from Saturday, 1.30 p.m., and extending to 11 p.m. on Sunday, is granted at Liverpool Camp to practically all the men in camp, only a few being retained for guards, picquets, and the necessary camp duties. There is no desire or intention to curtail the amount of leave hitherto granted to men in camp, but it is essential for the health and training of the troops that they should have the requisite sleep, in order that they may be fit to carry out their training, and it is considered that the action taken is in no way likely to discourage voluntary recruiting.
Average Price in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the average price paid for sugar in Australia per year, from 1907 to 1916, both inclusive ?
– The following information has been furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician as to theaverage wholesale price of Al sugar in Melbourne during the years stated: - Per ton - 1907, £19 15s. 4d.; 1908, £20 13s. 6d.; 1909, £21 6s. 6d.; 1910, £22 8s.; 1911, £21 17s. 6d.; 1912, £23 14s.; 1913, £22 8s. 2d.; 1914, £21 12s. 8d.; 1915, £23 3s.1d. ; 1916, £29 4s. 5d.
Supply to Government Departments
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Supply Bill - The Government and the Senate: Proposed Royal Commission - Service of Writ on Senator Watson.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn. In doing so, I should like to inform honorable senators that it was our intention to submit the Supply Bill to-day, but that intention having been frustrated, I am under the necessity of asking honorable senators to co-operate in getting the Bill through to-morrow, to enable payments to be made on Thursday morning. The purpose of the Bill is to give the Government Supply sufficient until Parliament reassembles after the elections. I remind honorable senators that when we adjourned on Thursday last it was with the plain intimation that we should meet earlier than usual this week in order to deal with the Supply Bill. They will understand, therefore, that I am relying upon their efforts to get the measure through to-morrow.
– - I was under the impression that I would have an opportunity of speaking on the main motion moved by Senator Gardiner, and, therefore, I reserved one or two observations that seemed more pertinent to the main motion than to the amendment. I said in a previous debate that, some years ago, when a member of the Tasmanian Legislature, I voted for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the conduct of the Chief Jus tice, who had often acted as LieutenantGovernor. That being so, and having regard to the fact that the Chief Justice had been often the direct representative of His Majesty, I did not think it was going beyond the necessities of the case to vote for a Royal Commission to inquire into the various allegations that have been mad© in this chamber during the last few days. In regard to the charges made by Senator Watson, the Leader of the Senate, when I was speaking on Monday, said that Senator Watson would have au opportunity to make good his charges in a Court of law. I was under the impression at the moment that Senator Watson, as is the wont of Labour members of the Legislature, had been on the stump outside of Parliament, and was being sued in consequence of his having uttered those charges outside the walls of Parliament. Had that been so, of course, Senator Watson would have had rightly to stand the brunt of having made outside of Parliament allegations upon which an action for libel might be founded. Therefore, my reply to the effect that that was satisfactory was elicited by the interjection of Senator Millen, which I thought referred to Senator Watson having made a statement outside the walls of Parliament. Senator Story said that he did not understand my action in voting for the amendment, with the promise that I would vote for the motion if the amendment were defeated. My reply to Senator Story is that, while we in the Senate are capable of distinguishing between specific and general charges, the popular mind is not so capable, and deals with the situation generally rather than specifically. And in order to allay public suspicion in regard to this matter, I deemed it my duty to vote for the motion, even if the Opposition were so insensible of its duties as not to make the charges more specific. That is all I wished to say on the original motion. As regards the objection that the Royal Commission will be costly, I am convinced that it will not cost more than a few hundred pounds, which will be well spent in dissipating an atmosphere of suspicion engendered by these charges.
– An action has been commenced against me by the Prime Minister. I desire to refer to it only for the purpose of answering remarks made by Mr. Robinson before Judge a’Beckett. His statement was to the effect that I was evading service. The answer to that is that probably at the very moment he was bo speaking an urgent telegram from me was in his office, naming a solicitor upon whom service might be made. The same morning I instructed Mr. Holmes to accept service for me, and the writ was served upon him this morning. My absence from Melbourne last week was the usual absence of honorable senators at their homes. We met earlier than usual,’ and, as I lost my previous week-end, I returned home as quickly as possible.The motion for adjournmentwas before the Senate when I started for the train, and I had no opportunity of replying that day to correspondence I had received. When I arrived at my home, a telegram was awaiting me asking me for a reply. I made an interim reply, and dealt with the matter officially on the following Monday.
– I merely wish to direct attention to the fact that, whilst all the day we have been listening to assurances that it was impossible for a certain matter to go before the Court, Senator Watson, by accepting service of the writ, has now shown that it is possible for that matter to go before the Court.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 March 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170313_senate_6_81/>.